So, Mathew, when you started your career, you opted for an apprenticeship rather than Further Education. Clearly, that’s worked out well for you, but what made you make that decision at the time?
I do think that the ability to build into the role and get practical on the job experience in a supported training role appealed to me, rather than getting a degree that was interesting, but that didn’t necessarily make me more employable. In the end, the chance to work and learn at the same time made it the obvious choice for me.
And, to be honest, a lot of my friends from school weren’t going on to Further Education either, and I think that there was part of me that wanted to stay close to home with them.
That makes sense, but I have to say that when I think about apprenticeships, the first place that springs to mind isn’t a GP Federation. How did you even find out about us?
When I left school, I volunteered to support people who were NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training), helping them to book onto courses and get in to work. And I thought with all those skills, I should be able to help myself get in to work, so I started looking.
I found the job on Indeed and it was a happy coincidence that I applied for the role, because I actually misread “Church Road” in Stockton as “Church Street” in Hartlepool. If I hadn’t, I may not have applied. I got a bit of a shock when I saw that I’d actually be working in Stockton, but I knew that I couldn’t pass up on such an opportunity.
But other than misreading the advert, did you find the application process difficult?
No, it was very simple actually. I submitted an application online and then I was invited to an initial… well, it wasn’t so much an interview as an introductory session at Stockton Riverside College.
They started the process, but the link between them and H&SH was seamless. Once I’d done everything I needed to there, H&SH was in touch offering an interview, and once they’d offered me the job, the college was straight back in touch to talk me through the next steps.
And how was the interview? Were you nervous?
Of course I was nervous, but I think it would have been much more daunting if I hadn’t already been doing some volunteering. One of the things I remember really clearly is that a lot of the questions were worded for people who didn’t have any previous work experience – I could talk about school experience, or life experience, this allowed the interview to flow even for someone with limited experience.
It was really well-structured for an apprentice; it wasn’t just their regular interview that they’d tried to make fit.
So, you got the job, and then what? You must have developed a great many skills since then that helped you get to where you are now?
Yeah, I think the biggest change has been my people skills. I was very shy at school, which might come as a surprise to most of our staff members! For most of my career at H&SH, I’ve barely been off the phone to people.
Now, I think that I’m much more confident when I speak to people, not only because I’ve done it a lot, but also because I know that I know what I’m talking about, and they respect that.
On top of that, I’ve gained a number of official qualifications, including my Level 3 CIPD qualification.
But you haven’t just developed in terms of skills, you’ve also progressed in terms of responsibilities. What was the journey from Business Admin Apprentice to Culture Lead like?
It was difficult at times, but I was fortunate because every single step of the way there were opportunities that presented themselves. I just took advantage of them.
One of the most helpful things about H&SH during my journey was the way that they supported me. They always made it clear what the next steps had to be so that I could progress. I never felt like just another number on the sheet.
Now that you’re head of a whole department, what are your plans?
I think that the most important thing I can do is build on the culture that we’ve already created and share that across our teams, our practices, and ultimately to our patients.
A strong culture can make such a difference to the services that we provide, and I am really proud to be able to lead that culture going forward.
It’s really impressive how far you’ve come in a short period of time. It’s clear to see what H&SH got out of having an apprentice, but what’s the main thing that you feel your apprenticeship gave you?
My apprenticeship opened lots of doors to different opportunities and gave me invaluable experiences to apply not only to my role, but also to myself as a person.
And if there was one thing you could say to people starting an apprenticeship now?
Use the opportunity to take in as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to take your shortcomings as learning opportunities.