Julie Brown, Cafcass’ Director of Resources, tells us about her work supporting young people to enter the world of work and the benefits apprenticeships can bring.
Julie Brown’s starting point is always, “Yes, I’ll figure out how,” when it comes to volunteering her time to help young people get into work. She is part of a programme which makes her available to schools to offer careers advice to young people. This is how a student from Southfields, who is currently shadowing Julie for a few days, happens to be sitting in on our interview. “There is a gap between being a student and the world of work. Any opportunity you get to talk to young people about work and close that gap – I feel that responsibility so seriously.”
But how does all this relate to Julie’s role in Cafcass? Well, rewind 18 months, to when the initial idea of bringing young people on-board by offering apprenticeships within the Cafcass Finance Team, which Julie oversees, came about. “Taking on an apprentice, especially if they are a young person, requires the organisation to be precise about what it needs, because there is a slightly heightened responsibility. You are entering into an agreement with the apprentice and you have to accept responsibility to give them a professional educative experience. Undertaking an apprenticeship is a very purposeful way for a young person to start work.”
Diane Cole, a Cafcass Senior Business Officer, had some gaps in her finance team. It was at this point that Diane asked Julie if she could bring in two apprentices. Julie said, “This is exactly the route we wanted to go in. After some quick work by Diane and the HR Team, our two apprentices from Exeter started with Cafcass in March 2017. They are both doing a finance apprenticeship, so this is a good starting point for their own finance careers.” Julie also mentioned how important it is try to align the practical experience apprentices get at work, with their academic learning.
“Opening up opportunities to apprentices worked for us, as the apprenticeship is very responsive to what we needed within the team. And the benefit for these two young people is that they now have a foothold in a national organisation, with all the opportunities that might bring them.
“However, this opportunity was not just about creating roles for people outside Cafcass coming in, but also an opportunity for existing members of staff to develop their skills in the process,” said Julie. Diane saw a further opportunity for a member of her team, to have a role in supervising the apprentices. This way they could gain some managerial experience and develop new skills to help her with her own progression.
Cafcass will be looking at further opportunities for apprentices within the organisation over the coming year.