From care to career – meet the Leaving Care apprentices

Leaving care can be tough – but a Somerset County Council apprenticeship scheme is helping young people use their own experiences to kickstart their careers.

Four young people who have spent time in care have been recruited as apprentices with the Council’s Leaving Care Team and are currently combining learning with employment.

For Ebony, aged 22, the opportunity is providing her with a step on the career ladder to reach her goal of becoming a social worker with a focus on working with young people.

Ebony was taken into care at the age of five and spent the next 10 years with a variety of foster carers. At 15 she reached a turning point when she was fostered by a family who went on to adopt her.

The Council’s fostering team is always looking to recruit more foster carers prepared to offer a caring and supportive home for teenagers – and Ebony’s experience shows how important that decision can be.

Her family, who went on to adopt a second foster child, provided the support and encouragement she needed. “I met them at a really difficult time – that age, 15, people can think of us as damaged goods. But they put in so much effort and helped me see things in a different way,” said Ebony.

After college and a couple of unfulfilling jobs, Ebony travelled to Australia where she worked as an au pair – and that cemented her ambition to work with children and young people.

Once home, she heard about the apprenticeship via her Leaving Care worker, her application was successful, and she started her role last May – in the middle of lockdown.

Val Marshall, the Council’s Senior Leaving Care Worker, said Ebony and the other apprentices recruited to the team, are “doing amazingly well”.

“They have brought their own personal experiences and have come forward with ideas they truly believe in and are important for young people.”

Councillor Frances Nicholson, Lead Member for Children’s Services at Somerset County Council, said: “The four apprentices recruited to the Leaving Care team have a huge amount to offer other young people.  It is also fantastic to see them using their experiences to build their careers.

“Apprenticeships offer opportunities to young people of all different backgrounds across Somerset, and I would really encourage more employers to consider providing this route into work and training.”

Ebony now has her sights set on completing her apprenticeship and working towards her next goal of training to be a social worker.

And her advice for others looking for an apprenticeship? “Go for it 100 per cent. It is not just a job it is working towards something that you really want to achieve.”

Foster carers need a spare room in their home and must be at least 21 years old, with no upper age limit, but most of all, they need to want to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable young people. Foster carers receive a weekly fee and allowance, plus ongoing support and a dedicated supervising social worker.

Find out how you can help change a child’s story online at www.fosteringinsomerset.org.uk, or call our friendly team on 0800 587 9900 for an informal chat.