Thames Reach
Monday 26 June 2017
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Moving on

Nearly all the trainees who completed their placement were able to successfully compete for a job either within Thames Reach or at another agency. Some, however, were unable to complete the scheme.

Photo of a former trainee
Mark Whiteford, a former service user trainee, is now a project worker at Thames Reach's Robertson Street hostel

Supporting trainees to gain employment

As a GROW trainee placement nears its end, trainees are offered assistance to apply for jobs and prepare for interviews.

They are also entitled to apply for internal vacancies, which are advertised to other Thames Reach employees only before being more widely advertised.

Ring-fenced posts for trainees?

Thames Reach decided not to ring-fence posts or roll trainees into current vacancies. We want to ensure that trainees feel confident enough to apply for mainstream jobs in a mainstream way.

While we want to encourage trainees to apply and support them in the application process, there is no guarantee of a paid job after the completion of the traineeship.

The rationale for this decision is:

  • Thames Reach believes that, at the end of their traineeship, trainees should have reached the point where they can successfully compete for jobs on the open market. This means that trainees should be confident enough to apply for external as well as internal vacancies and should be encouraged to do so
  • To ensure trainees have a genuine experience of applying for and, if successful, getting a job. This will help to build confidence, decrease dependence on the organisation and enable trainees to feel secure enough to be able to apply for external vacancies
  • To ensure trainees know that when they get a job they have truly got it on their own merit and the position is real, not ‘made up’
  • To ensure other staff understand that Thames Reach is not creating a double standard for trainees and, indeed, trainees have secured their new employment based on their own merit

Trainees were encouraged to begin searching for a future job any time after successfully passing their six-month probation.

The life coach was expected to help with job searching and supporting the trainee’s application by talking through the person specification and application forms with them.

We also offered mock interviews with a panel who provided verbal and written feedback.

Experiences of trainees

All of the trainees felt anxious when embarking upon their job search. Some said this distracted them from their placement and training, while others said it kept them focused.

Outcomes

GROW trainees' progress
Trainee activities Oak target   Actual outcome

Recruited into traineeship

24 26 

Complete programme

18 18
Gained permanent employment 15

8 permanent

9 temporary (17)

Did not complete the training <25% 

30% (6 left, 2 dismissed) 

Around one fifth of the GROW trainees moved into jobs outside the organisation while the rest secured jobs within Thames Reach through a competitive recruitment process.

Lesson learnt

Almost all trainees wanted permanent jobs and many will move into temporary jobs as a first step simply because there is a lack of permanent jobs.

Why did six trainees leave the programme?

Of the trainees who left the scheme before it ended, the majority left due to personal issues, often resulting in long-term sick leave.

These individuals had reached the point when they could competently perform the role of support worker/central services worker, however, they lacked sufficient support to assist them to cope and found the programme a challenge to their emotional resilience.

For one trainee, the leap to employment was a bridge too far. He/she found it difficult to change role from service user to service provider and lacked the social network to provide adequate support. This person also had some capability issues but, subsequently, feeling positive about the work skills they gained, moved into volunteering.

Another trainee experienced physical and mental health problems during the traineeship and was off work on long-term sick leave. Another trainee who left the programme had long periods of mental ill-health during the traineeship and eventually left on long-term sick leave. Another early leaver was experiencing post-traumatic stress and suffered a relapse. Again, this person was signed off on long-term sick leave.

Another had great difficulty coping with loneliness, relapsed and, near the end of the programme, was signed off on sick leave. The final trainee was struggling with financial problems and debts and relapsed. He/she was experiencing domestic violence while on the programme and was also signed off on long-term sick leave.

Dismissals

Two GROW trainees were dismissed. One had been nervous about disclosing his criminal record at interview and, although the information that was subsequently gained was not significant to his employment, it was felt that this behaviour indicated a lack of openness that would be required in post.

The other was also dismissed for gross misconduct due to an issue regarding honesty.

Lesson learnt

In dismissing trainees, we were able to reinforce the message that Thames Reach did not lower standards for service user employees and this alleviated the fears of some staff that traineeships might jeopardise the reputation and quality of service delivered.

When there was an episode of gross misconduct by a trainee, the whistle was blown by a fellow trainee who felt his/her behaviour threatened the integrity of the GROW programme. Again, this alleviated the fears of some staff who were concerned that trainees might not blow the whistle on each other.

While a number of trainees left the traineeship due to long-term ill-health or relapse, it is important to remember that a similar number of trainees who experienced a relapse accessed support and were able to return to training and complete their placement.

Read the stories of Abjinder, Jessica and Olivia.