Thames Reach
Wednesday 16 August 2017
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Placements for trainees

Thames Reach originally started with traineeships in service-delivery teams, for trainees to develop support worker skills and competencies.  We then decided to provide placements in any team that could suitably accommodate a trainee.

Where staff had concerns about confidentiality and boundaries, this was dealt with through training for both teams and trainees and the appropriate matching of trainees to teams, rather than excluding particular teams from providing placements.

Teams were selected based on a set of criteria including their ability to effectively supervise and support a trainee. Team managers were interviewed to ensure the criteria were met.

Some teams were less able to provide traineeships with particular learning opportunities (e.g. a brief intervention outreach team does not offer long term support and action planning). In these cases, trainees’ second placements were always with a team where they could gain these skills and experience. 

Lesson learnt

Placement teams

At the start of the GROW, 33% of teams were interested in having a trainee. The main reasons for teams not having trainees were:

  • Resistance to the idea of service user employees
  • Cautionary – wanted to wait until other teams had showed it could work and the initial teething problems had been worked through  
  • Lack of capacity, e.g. no suitable placement supervisor

18 months into the project, after much training, consultation, discussion and positive experiences of trainees, 95% of teams had either had a trainee or were interested in having one.

Matching trainees and service-delivery placement teams

Thames Reach developed the following list of selection criteria, in this order of priority, to match trainees with placement teams:

  1. Placing a current or former Thames Reach service user trainee away from the team from which they receive/d support
  2. Placing a trainee away from a service where they may feel vulnerable around their past support needs (e.g. a trainee with drinking problem who is not completely confident in how they would cope in a wet hostel would be placed in a project where clients were not actively drinking)
  3. Placing a trainee in a team of their choice or one that specialised in their area  of interest (e.g. mental health issues)
  4. Placing a trainee in a team where their skills or personality would flourish or are required (e.g. only very confident trainees were placed in a service with very chaotic clients or teams that were short staffed or in a state of transition)

Central services trainee placements

Thames Reach’s central services teams (i.e. IT, finance, HR and strategic support) were all very supportive of traineeships from the start of the GROW project. This was due mainly to the:

  • Departmental Director’s endorsement of the concept of service user employment

  • Service Managers’ keenness to make the project a success

However, central services’ traineeships were developed in the second year due to:

  • funding agreements

  • Thames Reach’s desire to develop the traineeship on an incremental basis, to enable us to learn from the support worker traineeships before developing the competencies and recruitment materials for the central services posts

At the start of the second year of the project, we employed an IT trainee and two finance trainees with specific job descriptions, person specifications and through a separate recruitment process from that of support worker trainees.

These recruitment documents can be downloaded from the traineeship resources page.