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How an apprenticeship led to a dream job | Christian’s story

Ever considered doing an apprenticeship? Our housing support officer Christian Jones shares the journey that led to his fantastic role.

Christian holding his apprenticeship certificate

When I hit 40 I had a change of heart. Work was never about chasing money for me and I thought “if I’m not chasing money then I might as well do something different, go out there and start helping people.” So I started volunteering for Barnardo’s and Community Links as a support worker.

During that time, Engage Leeds was born, which is the housing support service delivered in partnership with Connect. After a couple of years of volunteering, I applied for two positions with Engage – an assistant, and an apprentice. Originally I didn’t get either one, but someone dropped out of the apprenticeship so they offered me the role instead, which was great!

Apprentices and assistants do a very similar job.

The major difference was that 20% of my work had to be on-the-job training and once a month I’d go to college.

In the first year I completed the level 3 qualification in housing and in the second year I had to do a project, where I created a training package about how to stay well in winter if you’re vulnerable.

Listening and learning

I was really keen.

I just wanted to become a housing support worker and this was my path to doing it.

I’d go out with others to learn from them, watching and listening to how they engaged with clients.

At the time I hadn’t worked in an office for many years; in fact, it was a bit of a concern of mine because prior to this I worked as loads of different things. A building site is a very different working environment to a housing association office, but I really enjoyed being in the office because I could pick things up from people.

I passed my apprenticeship and just as it was ending I applied for the position I’m in now – housing support officer. At the point of applying I already had 12 clients, which is about half a regular workload for a housing support worker, so I was always building up to that. I actually took a week off beforehand to prepare for the interview – it’s a long time but if you want the job you put the effort in, don’t you?

The full shebang

The role I have now is fantastic.

I’ve got a great team. I’ve got the magic trinity: good company, a good manager and a good role as well – I’ve got the full shebang, which I’ve never had before!

My favourite thing about the role is helping people and seeing results. The job I went into was to support vulnerable people, so seeing people turnaround is fantastic.

When I first started and was joining colleagues on visits, I’d register people for Leeds’ homes. I remember someone I did this with, he and his partner were in dire need of help and I registered them. Now two and a half years later I’m resettling him in a property with Leeds City Council. He has a lovely little home and is in a much better place now where he’s supported. He probably doesn’t even remember me from back then, but it’s great to see his journey. It’s a huge difference from where he was to where he is now.

I’d give the apprenticeship experience 11 out of 10. I do recommend it, I really had a good time – the Engage team and rest of Connect is great. The other day I was meeting and greeting new apprentice candidates before they went into their interviews. It was exactly a day after I got my certificate. Quite serendipitous really!

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Connect Housing Association Limited is a charitable association registered in England and Wales under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 (Company No. IP17445R) and with the Regulator of Social Housing (No. L2285).

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