Lisa Larouche is proof that some Apprenticeships aren't just for teenagers or for people in their twenties.

For the past 23 years, Lisa has worked in the care sector for the Disabilities Trust. This is a national charity providing innovative care, rehabilitation and support solutions for people with profound physical impairments, acquired brain injury and learning disabilities, as well as children and adults with autism. “I began my career with the Trust as a support worker,” says Lisa, 48. “I've worked days and I've worked nights — and I've worked my way up to different managerial roles.” Since 2012 she has been Assistant Manager at Ernest Kleinwort Court residential home in West Sussex, a purpose-built centre run by the Disabilities Trust which provides support for people with a range of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida and arthritis. 

Then, in 2013, Lisa began a year-long Higher Apprenticeship (Level 5) in Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care — a sector qualification that has broadened her knowledge of the care sector and put her career on a new trajectory.  

The Apprenticeship was developed by Skills for Care — the employer-led workforce development body for adult social care in England — and the National Skills Academy for Social Care, and is designed for those in a managerial or business development roles in adult social care, or for those who require a high level of knowledge or specific specialism. 

Wider perspective

Before starting the Apprenticeship, Lisa had to undertake a maths, English and ICT assessment in order to update her functional skills. After being accepted onto the programme, she received a mix of technical know-how and practical experience.

“Studying the Apprenticeship through Northbrook College gave me an opportunity to meet and have group discussions with other apprentices working in the sector,” says Lisa. “These were people who were in slightly different roles or who were supporting different client groups, so it gave me a far wider perspective than I would otherwise have had.”

Completing an Apprenticeship in her forties wasn't an issue, says Lisa. In fact, it was a big plus as she brought a lot of life experience to the group. “I wasn't the oldest apprentice,” she says. “One of my fellow apprentices was in her mid fifties. Others were in their twenties. It was great to have such a varied mix of ages and views and we all listened to and learned from each other. That was a benefit to everyone.”

Goals and ambitions

At Ernest Kleinwort Court, Lisa is working with clients who have goals and ambitions but are living with what can be restrictive physical impairments. “What I most like about working in the care sector is helping and supporting people to achieve those goals and ambitions — and to achieve independence — but to do so in a person-centred way, so that they can live their lives exactly how they choose,” says Lisa. “It's a very fulfilling role.”

It can also be extremely challenging. “Enabling people to live their lives without restrictions means thinking carefully about how to help them be as active as possible,” says Lisa. “For example, this may mean helping them get out to work, or delivering the right equipment to support them, or supporting them with sometimes complex emotional and psychological needs.”

Lisa's next step up the career ladder is to become a Service Manager. “Having completed a Higher Apprenticeship qualification gives me the opportunity to apply for a Service Manager role,” she says. “It's open-ended, however, and there are various directions I could take. I also want to pass on everything that I have learned to the staff at Ernest Kleinwort Court so that they have a greater understanding of why we need to work in the way we do in order to provide quality care services.”

Completing the Apprenticeship was hard but rewarding work. “I would absolutely recommend the Apprenticeship route,” says Lisa. “It gives you the opportunity to discuss, learn and get experience with the support of your college, your tutor — and your workplace.”