The diversity of our colleagues’ personal and professional experiences is what helps to make Consensus such a Great Place to Work. Being able to provide opportunities for our amazing workforce to develop and grow is something we’re proud of, and to showcase that in action, we meet Bethany – let’s hear how they felt ‘Then’, and what they’re enjoying ‘Now’.
Stepping into a new Sector
When joining Consensus, I was new to the social care industry. I’d worn a lot of hats in the past – from chef, to audiovisual technician – I was trying to find that one thing that made me happy to go to work every morning. When relocating and job searching, I came across an Apprentice Customer Relations Assistant vacancy at Consensus Central Support Office. I’d wanted to be a support worker when I was younger but struggled due to disability. However, being a part of something where I could make a real difference was a pull and I was excited about the work the company did to make lives amazing.
Moving into this new sector was a little daunting at first, but the thing I’ve discovered about social care is that as long as you truly care about people, everything else can be learned along the way. I learned from the people around me, attending events, listened to podcasts and webinars, and was made to feel really welcome and knew I could ask any questions I needed at any time.
Becoming an Apprentice at 26
I had some initial reservations about applying for the role as I was 26, with many years work experience, so I wasn’t sure an apprenticeship would be right for me. But as I’ve learned, they’re not just for school leavers. Working in a new role and an unfamiliar industry, an apprenticeship gave me the chance to dedicate time to learn and develop. And like many adult apprenticeships, there was no stress over having an apprentice wage – it was just like any other job. I was paid above and beyond the national living wage, was carrying out the day-to-day task and responsibilities – I was simply given the time and support to study and become qualified.
Having been out of education for 10 years, I was nervous about studying again. But apprenticeships are great for hands-on, work-related development and it was so easy to get into it. It also gave me the chance to take on a role I might not otherwise have been qualified or experienced for, and I’m so happy I did it.
Navigating a new role as a disabled person
As a disabled person, I struggle to find workplaces that are truly willing to accommodate and support me to be able to have the same opportunities as everyone else. But what I’ve found is that people who work in social care are generally lovely and caring – I have a manager who gives me flexibility and understanding, a team that supports me and understands I might have limitations but I don’t ever feel judged or held back by those limitations.
It’s always hard to find the right way to work when you’re disabled – it’s really something you learn as you go so I’m glad my team has always been supportive when I’ve suggested trying new ways of working, different patterns or requested a new piece of equipment to try and find what works for me. I’ve not been made to feel like a ‘burden’ or a less productive member of the team due to the needs I have and am seen for the unique things I can do, rather than the few things I can’t do.
Passing and Succeeding
In February of this year – just over a year after starting my apprenticeship training – I passed with three distinctions. Given my initial reservations around studying and apprenticeships, I was so excited, and I am really proud of that achievement. I spent around 20% of my working time studying, shadowing, or learning in some way, so I feel much stronger in my skills and have gained so much confidence in doing my job.
Promotions and Development
As I gained confidence in my role, I started to figure out what I loved and what I was good at. I was always offering to support colleagues across the business in projects that interested me, or where I felt I had something to offer. Being able to not only try out different skills through study, but through working in a diverse team allowed me to hone in on things I wanted to do – and that’s where I discovered a passion for communications. After discussions with my manager, she was happy to help me develop this further. We sat down and planned the things I wanted to learn, found different work to do that would support the team, and projects to get involved with that would really showcase my abilities.
The result? A promotion to Communications Coordinator, an opportunity to create and implement my own communications plans, tell stories about our amazing colleagues here at Consensus, and bring everyone together. It feels amazing to be recognised for not only my competencies, but my personal passions, too.
Having now settled into this new role and new responsibilities, I’m starting to plan for the future. How can I make communications clearer, and make sure everyone has access to the information we need to do our roles? As a disabled person, how can I make communications and marketing more accessible? And what fun can I bring to our Consensus communications – recognising and celebrating our amazing workforce. I’m really excited about the future of my role, my career, and Consensus. I may not necessarily know what that looks like yet, but as I said at the start of my journey here – as long as you really care about people, the rest can be learned.