Newton Aycliffe training and apprenticeship provider Optimum Skills are making sure their young trainees are looked after at work thanks to the vital work of experienced welfare officer Barbara Worthy.
Barbara has vast experience – from the “University of Life”, as she puts it – having held professional counselling roles during her career as well as being a foster parent.
Optimum Skills are utilising Barbara’s like skills and ability to deal with difficult situations by providing vital support to young trainees and apprentices.
“It’s my job to support our apprentices with any kind of issue they may be facing in their life,” says Barbara, who is also Optimum’s deputy safeguarding officer, meaning that all new apprentices are visited in the first two weeks of their employment by Barbara, ensuring they are safe in the workplace.
“Adults often forget how daunting it is for young people to enter the world of work. And if they have any issues at work or at home, they sometimes don’t know who to turn to – it can make them feel isolated.”
“It’s my job to provide that support – to be a critical friend or guardian, and signpost them to other organisations that may be able to help.”
Barbara worked for 10 years as a counsellor in psychotherapy and was also a foster carer for 10 years.
She adds: “I’ve dealt with a range of complex issues over the years and I’d hope those skills are helping our young trainees today.
“Some of our apprentices come from a variety of different backgrounds and some come with their own very complex issues. “
“We’ve had young men join us from disadvantaged backgrounds who haven’t eaten for a number of days, and we’ll give them food parcels. That’s just one extreme example.”
“Some of them might be carers at home, which brings obvious challenges for them to deal with. It’s vitally important that we remember these young people need our support – not just within the workplace.”
Optimum Skills director Diane Shakespeare said: “We are very proud that we go the extra mile and provide welfare support to those that learn with us at Optimum Skills.
“With Barbara’s support, we have the knowledge that learners are safe in the work place, and we are pleased that we can provide additional pastoral support that many of our young learners can benefit from, if needed.”
Optimum Skills was set up in November 2013 with a handful of staff and now employs 37 people from its premises at Bede House on Aycliffe Business Park.
The firm works with businesses across the North-East region and specialises in niche areas of training, and is passionate about helping young people with little work experience progress into Apprenticeships.
Optimum offer fully-flexible traineeship programmes to ensure that trainees have the right skills and knowledge to meet the requirements of industry and that businesses gain employees who have established workready skills and knowledge.
The 14-week programmes enable young people to learn vital life skills and to prove themselves to employers that they have the attitude and qualities to progress into Apprenticeships.
The traineeship programme includes skills and personal development on social media etiquette, health and wellbeing, understanding mindset, team working, effective communication skills, dealing with conflict, emergency first aid, among others.
The traineeship programme has constant opportunities for employers and learners, with new programmes starting regularly.