Mencap, the leading voice of learning disability, has teamed up with Seetec Outsource to deliver the level 4 employability practitioner apprenticeship for staff who provide employment support.
This is a relatively new apprenticeship that was approved for delivery in February 2019, and Mencap is one of the first organisations to offer this exciting new programme to its staff.
The employability practitioner apprenticeship is aimed at individuals who deliver employment support services, providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to support those furthest from the labour market to find suitable and sustainable employment.
Denise Moon, National Learning and Development Manager for Mencap, explained how the programme offers employees a great new opportunity for professional development, helping them to deliver more effective services while giving them a chance to progress in their careers. She said,
“It’s important for large organisations like Mencap to invest in continuous professional development and create a fantastic learning experience for staff, giving them confidence in their ability to drive change and improve the employment prospects of people with a learning disability. Working in partnership with Seetec Outsource we’re making huge strides towards achieving this goal.”
Developing professional expertise across the organisation
Graham Thwaites, Practice Development Facilitator, joined Mencap two years ago in 2019. He feels strongly that development opportunities should be provided for all employees and was instrumental in setting up the initial pilot.
He explained, “Seetec Outsource stood out as a reputable provider with significant experience in the employability sector, and had led the trailblazer group for the development of the level 4 employability practitioner standard.
“We didn’t have any suitable programmes for staff delivering employment support, either internal or external. I spoke to colleagues to find out what they needed, and I’ve been driving this to help them gain a recognised qualification.”
Graham said they were flexible with their approach to the programme because they wanted it to succeed and trusted Seetec Outsource’s expertise in developing an appropriate delivery model. He emphasised how important it was to work together to achieve the best possible outcome.
Although there were some initial challenges getting managers on board, Seetec Outsource worked closely with Mencap to improve communication and increase uptake onto the programme. This resulted in a better understanding of expectations, and managers are now much more engaged. This in turn has improved learner experience.
Graham said, “There is huge potential within Mencap for this apprenticeship – we hope to showcase the positives from the programme to encourage future uptake. It’s the perfect opportunity for employees to learn and develop their skills.”
Learning and developing in a new role
Sophie Ellis started her role as a caseworker in April 2020 after working at Mencap as a job coach with no set caseload. She is one of the first employees to undertake the level 4 employability practitioner apprenticeship. Having already achieved a level 3 qualification, she felt that this was the next logical step in her development and would equip her with important skills for supporting her learners.
Sophie attended an initial virtual meeting over the summer to find out more about the programme, and this was followed by a virtual induction day where she met Ben, her apprenticeship development coach.
Sophie uses Pivot, Seetec’s online learning platform, and joins monthly workshops with her coach, with tasks tailored to fit in with her workload. Mencap have been very supportive, allowing her an afternoon a week to keep up with her learning.
She explained, “I’ve recently taken on my first full caseload of 8 learners on a supported internship and felt that the employability practitioner apprenticeship would help me to develop in my new role.”
“Supporting our learners during such a challenging time hasn’t been easy, but what I’ve learned so far has given me much more clarity on what I can do to help. It’s a great professional development opportunity and will no doubt benefit our learners too.”
Making an impact
Marco Abbatecola, an education and employment case worker, also joined the programme last summer. He has 8 learners on supported internships and finding work placements at present is difficult, but he has managed to place two learners with The Financial Times. With ongoing restrictions due to the pandemic, he continues to explore new ways to find placements while supporting his learners online.
Even though it’s been challenging having to deliver job coaching remotely, Marco feels that the apprenticeship programme is helping him to better plan his employability sessions. He loves supporting his learners.
Marco said, “There’s a lot of information to digest, but having the additional knowledge means I can answer more of my learners’ questions or signpost them to the right resources.
“The programme is a great opportunity for professional development – I’ve already seen an improvement in my own digital and language skills.”
Mencap has high hopes for the new apprenticeship and is working with Seetec Outsource to track learners’ progress as they begin to apply their new knowledge and skills.
Denise and Graham hope that their experience will encourage others. With the potential to offer the apprenticeship across the wider organisation, the level 4 employability practitioner apprenticeship could become the gold standard for any member of staff delivering support on the front line.
Denise said, “At Mencap, our staff are passionate about improving the lives of people with a learning disability. We have to equip them with the right tools to do this effectively. This programme promises to support their professional development so that they can provide crucial, and often complex support to those who need it most.”
Nikki Bardsley, Director of Apprenticeship Operations at Seetec Outsource, believes that Mencap’s commitment to developing front-line staff is crucial to raising standards within the employability sector. She said,
“Mencap’s values align closely to Seetec’s, and we share a common goal: to improve the lives of the individuals we support. It’s by investing in our people, and empowering them to make a difference, that we’re going to see the impact our services can have.”
For more information about the level 4 employability practitioner apprenticeship please visit our dedicated programme page.