Connor MacNeil is a support worker from the Scottish Borders and is currently doing his Modern Apprenticeship which he is due to finish in April.  

Before working in care Connor had completed an Honours degree in Sports and Exercise and was working as a sales assistant. He decided to change career paths to make a difference. “I’d seen support work happen in the community and I thought social care and that kind of work was very commendable. I thought I would give it a try – I wasn’t feeling very fulfilled in my previous job so I thought if I tried a different career path it would be more fulfilling.”

Connor has developed lots of new skills on the Modern Apprenticeship but he explained the main skill he has learned is an ability to reflect. “Learning to reflect on how I act around the people we support has really helped my practice. I’ve learned that how I act can really influence how the people we support respond to me. One of my colleagues who also does acting put it in a really great way – you almost have to become a different character with each individual client. Making sure I’m giving the people I support the reaction they need, means I can be faced with less challenging behaviour and creates a more positive exchange for everyone .”

The Modern Apprenticeship skills have certainly helped Connor’s practice and he feels more confident than he did when he first started.

“I’m much more confident in terms of practice and communication with the people we support – from people I’ve supported for months and have an excellent relationship with, to people who I’m supporting for a holiday shift, I’m so much more confident in my approach.”

“My favourite part is actually diving into the policies and legislation because that gives me a solid stance on where I need to be in terms of how I treat the people we support and also how I should expect to be treated. Learning legislation not only protects the people we support but it protects me too, and knowing the legislation means I am adequately prepared if I am presented with a difficult situation.”

There are plenty of benefits to the Modern Apprenticeship but the most rewarding part for Connor is getting to see and track his progress. “Everything goes onto one file so I can work on something for a while, submit it, and see my progress and how my skills are developing. It was great being able to add to the file, I didn’t have a lot of experience when I first started but as time progressed I had more clients and more stories to reflect on, which gave me excellent experience and has helped me progress. I feel like I’m better at support work now than when I started.”

Connor wasn’t sure what to expect when he started the Modern Apprenticeship and was especially surprised by the amount of writing involved. “There is more writing that I was used to. Being from an academic background the biggest surprise was getting used to the reflective writing requirement instead of academic. Reflecting on my own experiences instead of using literature and academic references was something that took a bit of getting used to.”

There is plenty of support provided on the Modern Apprenticeship course, from Mentors to colleagues in the team. “I’ve found everyone to be very supportive, they all want to give their own experience. My trainer, Susan, is incredible – in every email she reminds me that she is there 24/7 for any questions. There is such a well established support system for Modern Apprenticeships which I appreciate.”

Connor would encourage anyone tempted, to start the Modern Apprenticeship. “It can be difficult at first but you get better at it. If you do lack experience once you’ve started your MA you’ll get some experience under your belt so you have something to reflect on. ”

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