I used to make cars, now I work for Sense

My name is Errol and I started working at Sense as a support worker in 2009 before becoming a registered care manager. I started my working life in retail, then became a forklift truck driver before moving to the production line at MG Rover, where I worked for ten years.

When I was made redundant from MG Rover, a friend who worked at Sense suggested I apply for a job. She saw that my football coaching skills would be useful because I had experience working with and motivating all kinds of people. I couldn’t imagine myself working in care because I’d always worked in manufacturing or retail. I kind of thought that could be where I’d stay.

I took another industrial job, but a couple of years later was made redundant again. This time I had some warning, and time to think about what I wanted to do next. I decided that I’d change career and that this time, apply for a job in the care sector.

Starting at Sense

I began work in an accommodation service and found I needed completely different skills. I was supporting individuals, learning their communication needs, and they were learning about me. I did question at first, can I do this? But quite quickly I actually found that I really enjoyed it. I loved the fact I was achieving something for the guys. It’s a great thing. It’s wonderful that you’re giving them something back.

Building a career

I built up my career by moving around the services at Sense to gain lots of different experiences, and in 2012 I successfully applied to become deputy manager at one of the services. I only applied after the existing manager put the application form in my hand and told me to apply – up till this point I didn’t feel I had enough experience for such a challenging role.

I’ve been very, very fortunate. The centre manager, who had a lot of knowledge and service experience within Sense, taught me a hell of a lot about being a manager and I’m only where I am because of her. She would advise and coach me, lead me and give me tasks to do to help my development. And I learnt about working with the team.

Training and development

Over the years, I’ve done courses and training to help develop as a manager. One course was called Understanding Your Managing Style. You look at another manager and you kind of want to be like them, but this course taught me that we’ve all got different styles. It doesn’t matter what style you have, it’s about you finding your own identity, it opened me up and helped me discover a lot about myself.

The facilitator of this course was Sense’s head of learning development who told me about an external course for black, Asian, minority ethnic people who are potential managers – the BAME Moving Up Programme. If I wanted to apply, Sense would sponsor me if I was successful in gaining a place.

The BAME course totally changed me. When I went into the room the first day I felt that most of the other people on the course were managers at a higher kind of level, locality managers or social workers. I wasn’t sure I should be there.

By the end of it, I realised, yes, I should be there because I’d now decided I wanted to be a registered care manager. I’d been conscious of my age, thinking that becoming a manager a bit later in my life might work as a disadvantage, but I now understand that this can be an advantage, as my life experiences are just as valuable as having lots of qualifications.

I also got to know peers who are also being challenged themselves and we’ve become quite a close knit group over the time. It really developed me into believing in myself more.

What kind of person makes a good support worker?

Many people become support workers from different working sectors, and have found that they absolutely love the job.

I say to people, ‘you can bring in your skills’. I brought in my football coaching skills, which allowed me to be able to talk to people. Even though they were children, I always had to deal with the parents. It was a strength of mine which I didn’t know at the time, my ability to connect with people and get on with people.

You don’t have to have the skills, those can be learned, but you have to have that motivation. That energy and the drive and the wanting to do it, and wanting to learn.

What I would look for in a support worker is someone who’s got all that, and the willingness, the drive, the passion, commitment and above all, that they want to do the job, because they want to give something to the individuals.

I’ve said it many times, it’s the best job I’ve ever had, and the most fulfilling.

I’ve got a hearing impairment and wear a hearing aid and feel that Sense have been really supportive to me, and I would not be where I am today without that support.

Moving forward

Eighteen months on from becoming a registered care manager, I am now part of the Equality and Diversity Working Group, with a remit to drive equality and inclusion throughout the organisation. I am looking to become more of a voice for deaf staff.

I have found the role has shown me where my other strengths lie and where I need to work on my weakness. The fantastic support I get from my line manager is only serving me to take on more challenges… watch this space!