Advocacy Focus Apprentice Achieves Working Wish He enjoyed his time with Advocacy Focus so much that he stayed beyond his yearlong training programme and did an extra six months before landing his dream job in accounting. In his own words, his apprenticeship was a truly inspiring journey and certainly helped to fast-track his career.Read an interview with Shezad below. How did you find out about the Apprenticeship at Advocacy Focus? After I had just left school qualified only by GCSE’s, I started to do my A-levels but I am not much of an academic and had aspirations to join the working world instead. I instead started a Business Administrative Level 2 course at Blackburn College in March 2016 and it was at that time that, with the help of the college as my registered training provider and assessor that I became a business apprentice. My father saw the job advert in the Advocacy Focus e-newsletter and thought that as I had a desire to eventually work in accountancy that a business apprenticeship would give me a good basic grounding, whilst also experiencing the realism of working with people with health and social care needs. What was your role at the charity? After my first ever official interview and a follow up practical assessment day, I was really pleased to be the successful candidate. I was very nervous on my first day but decided to dress the part, arriving in a smart grey suit, given that I was to be working closely with the senior management team. I had no reason to be nervous, as working for a small charity everyone was really nice and supportive and I settled into my role very quickly. My role was to provide finance and administrative support to the team as part of the Operations Team and to deliver administrative systems and procedures to ensure the smooth running of the overall organisation. How did the role develop? I soon realised that there would be more to the apprenticeship than just making the tea and answering the phone, as I had joked to my friends. I spent time with the Independent Advocates to truly understand the difference they can make in the lives of our service users who are often very vulnerable adults with needs such as mental health issues or dementia. The Advocates relied on me to keep everything ship-shape in the office so that they could focus on front line delivery of high quality advocacy. This would include operational support such as arranging mobile phone contracts, DBS checks and ID name badges to the important job of doing the payroll. As finance was the area that I was particularly interested in, at the same time as working, I was also studying for and passed the Accountancy and Business Level 4 qualification by ACCA. I quickly grew in confidence at Advocacy Focus as I became an integral part of the team and I felt I was given the support I needed to develop and grow as an individual. My IT skills were beneficial and helped to maintain the company website and I played an active part in any events we carried out as part of our marketing communications. I was on hand to bake a cake when we supported ‘World Mental Health Awareness Day in October’ and also trekked up Pendle Hill when we were fundraising to help extend our services wider than our statutory contracts with local councils. What was the most memorable moment working at Advocacy Focus? Can I have more than one please? On a personal level, I joined the charity as a boy and really believe that I left as a man. There was nothing more poignant to me than my 18th birthday to find out how much I had become part of the team. It was really special to arrive at work to see my desk decorated with balloons and a huge cake. I hadn’t expected the royal treatment but I felt truly touched by the effort of my teammates. In terms of a business achievement that was memorable was when I delivered training to the entire Senior Management Team for a new HR system that I had developed and implemented. I realised that I was now comfortable presenting to my colleagues and seniors and the new system was well received to improve efficiencies of administration such as annual leave and our flexible working policy. What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing an apprenticeship? I would say, don’t hesitate, apply today. The CEO at Advocacy Focus, Justine Hodgkinson once shared with me that ‘Every day is a school day’ and I would recommend to any new apprentice to treat the opportunity as such. I really did learn something new everyday acquiring skills such as knowing how to be compassionate and empathetic to a service user on the phone, to being efficient and help improve ways of working with our professional partners. Any final words? I would like to say that I couldn’t have joined a more amazing organisation. It has been a true pleasure working with everyone and my time at Advocacy Focus will not be forgotten – not the memories and not the people.