Read about our graduates

Graduates for Facebook cropped Some of our Graduates for 2016

The best way for you to learn more about our National Graduate Management Training Scheme is for you to hear from the graduates themselves. 

We encourage our graduates to write about their experiences, so that you can see first hand the impact the scheme is having on their lives and how they are making a difference in social care. 

Every month, we'll upload a blog from one of our graduates, so that you can see their journey from start to finish.

The blogs are interesting for you to read whether you're a graduate thinking about joing next year's scheme or a host looking to recruit one of our skilled and compassionate graduate candidates. They'll give you an idea of the high quality work we expect our graduates to take part in and the massive impact graduates are having on their host organisations. For more information on the National Graduate Management Training Scheme, please use one of the links below. 


Edited Grace FryHaving worked in insurance and finance, choosing to enter the world of social care may not be the most obvious choice for me to start my career. However, I find personal stories a lot more interesting than spreadsheets and feel that working in the social care sector gives me the opportunity to have an impact on real people’s stories. That is really what first attracted me to applying for this scheme.

I am passionate about working with people to help them help themselves, as well as enabling them to cope independently despite their vulnerabilities. One of the things that helped me to develop this philosophy was when I worked for the Care Quality Commission. I worked as an administrator and would receive national notifications that documented incidents of abuse and would have to pass this information on to the relevant inspection team. This taught me the importance of taking a person centred approach when administering care and gave me a valuable insight into catastrophic repercussions that can occur when care is not of an acceptable quality. I feel that these consequences are not something I can easily ignore and so I am proud today to be in a position that allows me to contribute to the fight for quality care.

In a subsequent position as a support worker in supported living accommodation for the elderly I have seen first-hand how poor management can impact the work that is done, overlooking the service user as the priority and neglecting the person-centred approach that is so desperately needed. This, along with my psychology degree and my interest in human behaviour, is why I am here sitting at my desk today.

My placement is with the Stroke Association. Prior to learning where I would be based I had no knowledge of the charity or even of what a stroke really is and the impact it can have. This naivety has worked to my advantage, as I have been able to look at the charity with fresh eyes from day one. I have learnt about the day-to-day struggles faced by stroke survivors, their carers and their family members.

From a business point of view I have also learnt the difficulties that staff face on a daily basis. For example, as part of the recovery process stroke survivors often want to volunteer for the organisation. This may be because they are unable to return to work, or they want to give something back. But a stroke can impact a person’s mood, behaviour, understanding, memory and mobility, all of which can impact the role that they are able to take as a volunteer. Staff must learn to manage these issues, whilst keeping the best interests of all stroke survivors in mind.

My first month has involved getting to know the organisation and hearing the personal stories of stroke survivors. I feel that my main role or responsibility will be helping to integrate new methods that can overcome this difficulty.

As this is only the very beginning of my placement, my hopes for the future are not very specific yet. I would like to think that I will learn a great deal more about the sector and the different job roles that exist, as well as how I would work as a manager to help to improve or develop these roles and their responsibilities, so that the service can progress in the most constructive and positive way.

I hope that I can look back at this year as a strong foundation for my future. I would like to be able to refer to specific projects that I have taken charge of and say ‘this is what I did, this is how it benefited the organisation and the staff and, most importantly, this is how it benefited current and future service users of the Stroke Association.’

Albert SimangoGrowing up I was never able to comprehend why everyone’s wish was to have a long life. It seemed to me highly undesirable that one should live long enough to fall apart; sad, alone and compounded with an endless list of degenerative diseases that affect your balance, movement, brain function, talking, breathing and heart function.

In fact, when I picked up Thomas Hobbes' book Leviathan, in which he describes the life of mankind as ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’, it was music to my ears, because he seemed to be the only one accepting the unpleasantness of life. Reading this book influenced me to go to university and study Politics, Philosophy and Economics. That’s where I learned we can do something about this natural state of mankind.

Genuinely, my intuitive character and understanding of the world made me want to work in the social care sector, not with just one person, but in a capacity where I could help make decisions that impact positively on people’s lives. I started this journey whilst still at university, where I actively participated in Time to Change. This mental health campaign aims to improve adult public attitudes towards people with mental health problems, as well as ending mental health stigma and discrimination by using light humour, familiar situations and local settings to really get people talking about the subject. The impact we had was tremendous and it is this inspiration, coupled with my knowledge, that made me want to join the Skills for Care National Graduate Management Training Scheme.

Now I am working as a trainee at Contented Dementia Trust, whose aim is to maintain well-being and contentment for people who are living with dementia throughout the rest of their lives. The work I do here is based on a unique approach that can be learned by anyone and provides the key to communicating with a person with dementia, as well as managing care in a way that vastly improves quality of life for all concerned. For me it is interesting to see how my thinking has developed over time. Thanks to this graduate programme, I have been given the right tools to help me get to where I want to be.

Belinda Vogtlinedited

I have worked within the health and social care sector for the previous 5 years in three completely different organisations as a support worker. The role has differed dramatically in each organisation. My host organisation is Affinity Trust and I have been amazed by the positive culture of the organisation and the professionalism of each and every individual.

I am the first one to admit that before starting this scheme, I had pre-existing assumptions about health and social care managers and they were not the most flattering. I have witnessed poor management and consequently been part of poor teams. Although this has not been the most enriching experience, it has taught me the impact of poor management and has made me want to become a manager in order to improve the care and support that individuals receive.

So far within Affinity Trust I have been involved in and exposed to; delivering frontline support, recruitment, auditing, human resources, finance, marketing and supervisions. I spent my first two months in one particular service providing support to adults with learning disabilities. I had the pleasure of shadowing a very competent and dedicated Team Leader, who always put the people we support at the centre of everything and always made me cups of tea! This is something that sets Affinity Trust apart from other care providers; the people who work there genuinely care and want to make a difference. This is something I can take with me throughout my career and strive to create an environment like the one I was placed in.

Something that concerns me is that you never hear about the organisations that provide excellent care; it’s always the organisations that have provided abysmal care that seem to crop up in newspapers and on the internet. This needs to change and organisations like Affinity Trust need to be proud of their staff and the work that they do.

I do not necessarily want to change the world, but I believe that if I am given the opportunity to make little changes to individuals and the quality of care and support they receive, this may have a larger impact in the future. This scheme has already taught me so much and it’s only March! I hope my knowledge of the sector and my host organisation continues to grow over the remaining months, and I really hope that by the end of the year I can operate as a fully functional manager.

Alex Johnstone edited

Having studied English at university, the general consensus is that it gives you the skills to do almost anything. This may well be true on paper, but the reality is it prepares you for very little of the real world. So, having graduated and after going through the motions of applying for jobs that I couldn’t convince myself I wanted, let alone anybody else, I found social care. My particular focus was with elderly people, an area that I consider to be relatively unseen from the outside compared to other areas of social care. If anything I have read or heard is true, social care for the elderly is one of the most pressing issues of our time and, with increasing demands and fewer resources, there appears to be no sign of it slowing.

My experience started in a nursing home and it’s fair to say that waking up at 6:30am for my first shift, I wasn’t feeling optimistic. How wrong I was. My first two weeks of working there have since proved to be two of the most significant and enlightening periods of my life, and it is for that reason that I sit here now writing as a graduate for Skills for Care.

Growing old is not easy. It is inherently very hard and age waves its flag in the face of any attempt to stop it. If you are fortunate enough to have family to support you, your body, mind, or both, will still inevitably fail you. It is for this reason that many people give up to old age; what’s the point when it will get you in the end? Working in the nursing home made me realise that this is an impossible fact of life and no amount of yoga is going to stop the aches and pains of standing up and sitting down. I did, however, find reason to hope. There often appears to be a stigma associated with entering a care setting, that it is resigning yourself to old age. This need not be true. Entering an environment where people have a genuine interest in your well being and actually create a platform for you to flourish can put old on the back burner. Good care means allowing this to happen; enabling someone to do what they want to do, rather than what old age allows them to do. This experience inspired me to apply for the Skills for Care graduate scheme.

I’m currently working with Somerset Care Ltd, one of the largest care providers in the South West, offering support in domiciliary care, residential, nursing, dementia and learning disabilities. I’m fortunate to have access to much of the business as well as the chance to go out and meet our service users. I’m currently leading a time and motion study looking at operations and staff efficiency. It’s fascinating to see how the company is confronting the challenges facing the sector with an unrelenting and uncompromising focus on what we do; care for people.

My career aspirations haven’t really taken focus yet, but as long as I can contribute to making old age something that can be fulfilling and enjoyable instead of a time filled with apprehension, fear and uncertainty, I will consider myself a success.

Joel Trounce

When I was asked to write a blog post about my placement and how I have found the experience so far, I was a bit apprehensive that I wouldn’t be able to do the experience justice but - much like the mantra I have adopted while on my placement- I will give it a good go.

I graduated from university with a degree in International Business and Spanish and, like a lot of my peers, I wasn’t quite sure of where I was going or what I was going to do. I had developed an interest in Social Care through working during my holidays as a support worker at a home for residents with Mental Health Disorders. Not only did I enjoy my time there, but it was where I realised how much difference you can make to someone’s life by supporting individuals to achieve a fulfilling and enjoyable life.

I applied for the Skills for Care National Graduate Management Training Scheme with a strong belief that I have the values and ambition to improve the lives of the individuals who are most in need. Having met the other graduates on our scheme, it was clear that we were all striving to develop and strengthen a sector viewed by the public through the media for scandals and poor practice.

My placement is working in the Adult and Children Services Workforce Development Team at Hertfordshire County Council. Having spoken to the other graduates, my first week was quite different in comparison; my department was going through a difficult restructure which made my arrival feel quite strange and, at times, I was unsure if I was helping the situation or just getting in the way. Although the first couple of weeks were tough, it gave me a taste of reality and demonstrated the fragility of the public sector and the resilience of its employees.

I am currently involved in diverse range of projects, from acting as Project Manager for an occupational therapy workforce strategy to working on a Board Supported Safeguarding Compliance report to monitor and improve the level of safeguarding training in health and community services (HCS). More recently I have been commissioning training for the Transforming Care partnership in Hertfordshire and commissioning this year’s Approved Mental Health Professional training calendar.

It seems strange to think that we have hit the half way mark on our placement already; the whole experience has flown by at an incredible pace and to say that I have learnt a lot (even at this point) would be a complete understatement. I have learnt how to handle multiple projects while developing valuable contacts and friends who have supported me and given me advice and guidance whenever I have needed it. I am immensely proud to be part of this year’s cohort of Skills for Care graduates and I am excited to see what future holds for all of us!

Laura Johnson Website

I couldn't believe my luck when I came across the Skills for Care graduate scheme, as it was the answer to the problem I had been facing. 

After graduating with a degree in psychology I had gone on to work in a residential home for people with dementia, which lead me to a job in the charity sector.  

I had learnt a lot in both of these roles, but didn't feel there was a senior role that I wanted to, or was able to, step up into. I wasn't utilising all of the skills I had and I wanted a career in social care, not just a job. I wanted responsibility, development opportunities and, if I'm honest, better pay. 

I was stuck in a paradox. You can't be promoted into a more senior role without experience and you can't get experience without working in a more senior role, so the graduate scheme has been the ideal solution for me. 

Since starting the scheme, not only have I been hosted by a fantastic organisation who are passionate about my progression into a more senior role, but I've been taught practical leadership skills and am working towards a management qualification.

I feel very fortunate that this scheme has allowed me to continue to progress in the sector I love. I am lucky to be able to stay involved in offering frontline support to people, whilst also developing myself and my career.

Ruksaar Waka edited

As I grew up the metaphor of a tree was used repeatedly to explain to me a variety of life’s complexities. The explanation involved how roots simultaneously nourish the tree by drawing up food, water and nutrients and also anchor the tree against wind and turbulent weather, allowing branches the flexibility to bend, whilst also granting it the fortitude to withstand breakage. Morals, values and beliefs were the nourishment my parents provided to me and became my roots, allowing me to ultimately grow and blossom and leading me to this point and the person I am today...

I recently graduated with a degree in Business Informatics (HP), however university posed many challenges. Through the difficulties I sought solutions to manage my health and well-being and ended up on a path of self-discovery.  Reflection and contemplation provided me with clarity about my “roots”. It was then that I understood the full extent of the metaphor that was prominent in my life, as well as the value of my values and how these aligned perfectly with the social care sector.

It was at this point that I pursued options in social care and today I am part of the Business Development team at Olympus Care Services through the Skills for Care National Graduate Management Scheme. Based on my previous experience and understanding of technological integration within social care, my first project was working with the Assistive Technology Team identifying and addressing process efficiency opportunities and developing marketing and promotional strategies accordingly.

The project is currently coming to a close and has been a resounding success despite the obstacles that arose, and I look forward to seeing the evidence of this in the near future.

Moving forward my next project involves developing a manager’s induction & continuing professional development programme. This has been established around my personal development requirements to challenge and expose myself in various roles and services within social care in order to inform my future career pathway.

It has been a rewarding and enlightening experience thus far. The placement progression and support my mentor has offered has provided invaluable insight into the sector and I’ve developed the skills that need to be developed in order to excel in a leadership role within social care. Most importantly, I have regained my confidence to tackle the progressive challenges the sector faces. Whatever and wherever the next steps are I am looking forward to the prospects that the graduate scheme has facilitated!

Melissa Davies edited

Before being accepted onto the scheme I was working for a fresh produce company on the south coast. Whilst sat in a field monitoring the growth of a new crop of barley I decided that I wanted to try something different and swap the plants for people.

Learning about management in the social care sector has been an eye-opening experience and one that I will carry forward in my career. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many different people and look forward to pursuing the future opportunities that the scheme has provided.

I have always believed that people make the world go round and this scheme has taught me a lot about the different behaviours, experiences and actions of them.  Along the way I have learnt useful techniques and theories about how to manage teams and budgets. Most importantly, I have been able to experience some of the challenges that the social care sector and life throws at you! It is facing these challenges and problems that has accelerated my learning the most. 

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