Harry, is a current St Mungo’s apprentice who experienced homelessness in his late teens and early twenties. With no formal qualifications, he feels he can use his experience to support others who are in the same position he was. In this blog he discusses how the St Mungo’s Apprenticeship programme has had helped him to turn around his life.
My name is Harry and I work at St Mungo’s Endell Street hostel, London as an Apprentice Project Worker. I have been in this role for just over nine months.
I was attracted to the St Mungo’s apprenticeship scheme for a number of reasons. However, the main reason was due to my own experiences of homelessness during my late teens and early twenties. I thought that I could provide clients with a sympathetic ear and hopefully a high level of support. I felt that when I was in hostel accommodation (not St Mungo’s) I had missed out on advice that may have helped me recover more quickly.
I also wanted to gain a qualification as my education had been affected by my homelessness. I also hoped to learn as much as possible from my colleagues in respect of other services and organisations in the London area.
The apprenticeship runs for 12 months and is a full-time job. Your first six months consist of lots of watching and learning from other members of your team. This was for me a great way to learn the ropes. You could be completing simple tasks such as recording mail, health and safety checks and answering the phone. Once your line manager feels you are ready, you will be assigned clients to key work. This usually happens at around the six month point.
“The process is nerve-racking but not impossible”
My interview was involved two tests to determine my level of literacy and numeracy skills and a more formal competency based interview. This consisted of questions regarding my previous work history, homelessness and a role-playing exercise. Although the process is nerve-racking it’s not impossible.
Receiving the phone call to say I had been successful was really uplifting and in a way life-changing. I was obviously really pleased that I now had a job with the opportunity to train and get a qualification but also to have the chance to help others who had found themselves in a similar position to me was very satisfying. It also meant I had to move to London from Surrey.
“Supported by co-workers to a high level”
It’s great being an apprentice. The programme is well structured and I am supported by my co-workers to a high level. I have sometimes found it difficult to meet the deadlines set for me by the NVQ assessor, due to my own lack of organisation. I have gradually obtained more and more skills over time. My confidence level has grown over the past few months and this has helped me to deliver a better level of support to my clients.
“The opportunity I have been given has changed things for me in a huge way”
I have been given the chance to gain a qualification through an apprenticeship, which I didn’t think would be possible for me. I can now see a better future for myself with hopefully a meaningful career. I had almost given up on the idea of studying as I did not think I would be able to afford to. Where other apprentice positions are paid less, I would not have been able to afford to complete the training. I think that this is one of the most important things about the scheme offered by St Mungo’s.
I feel that I am able to see the problems faced by clients in a slightly different light to others who haven’t experienced them. Perhaps this gives me an advantage. However, I also have to remind myself that although I may have experienced some similar things to the clients I work with, each case is individual and requires a unique approach.
Looking ahead, I would like to continue working for St Mungo’s as I feel that the organisation has given me an opportunity to gain a qualification and I would like to give something back. I would like to study for a higher qualification related to the sector but that will depend on my finances and ability. I hope to be working in the homelessness for a few more years.