There are plenty of opportunities at all levels, whether you want a stable job in friendly environments or to progress and experience various social care settings. Optalis is a great place to work in all our roles, from administrators, support workers, employment coaches, social workers, occupational therapists, to reablement assistants.
Discovering a Rewarding Career Path as an Occupational Therapy (OT) Apprentice
My name is Bex and I'm an Occupational Therapy (OT) apprentice, based in the Optalis Local Access Point (LAP) team. The LAP team are a multi-disciplinary team, and includes colleagues from Mental Health services, nurses, hospital teams and social workers.
I've been asked to share my experiences and insights about this exciting career path.
Firstly, let me explain what an OT apprentice is. As an OT apprentice, I work alongside experienced OTs to gain practical on the job experience, while completing an intensive three-year degree course, which has been arranged through the learning and development team at Optalis. I spend one day a week on campus at university, and complete some learning in my own time, alongside the hands on learning I experience through work. I have a work-based mentor, who is my supervisor – Diane Macdonald, Principal OT for Optalis. We have regular meetings with my lecturer to help me progress on my course. The apprenticeship course has been a perfect fit for my situation, I have a young family and need to continue to earn while I train.
Working in the LAP team has been a fantastic opportunity to learn from professionals across the health and social care and develop the skills needed to become a successful and rounded OT. I could not have picked a better team to join. From the first day I was sitting in on meetings and out on shadowing visits, I have learnt so much from the whole team. As an OT, you must be holistic and consider every aspect of the person’s wellbeing, and the LAP team helps do that for everyone they support. Because I’ve worked alongside so many different professionals, I am not daunted by something that I may see that’s not in my professional remit, I feel confident speaking to colleagues and getting advice.
One of the things I love about being an OT apprentice is that it's a practical role, with more direct contact with people than my previous role. A lot of people assume that it's just about using equipment, but it's very broad and you have the freedom to look at the whole person and be creative.
I am incredibly lucky to be based in the LAP team. It has been inspiring to work alongside experienced Mental Health colleagues, Nurses and other professionals in the LAP team and to see them all still learning and developing. I thought I was stuck with my career choices, but I have been given a second chance to re-study and find a role that aligns with my key beliefs. It's never too late to change your path, it’s a big commitment and lots of hard work but my team is very supportive. Over time I hope to progress further in my career and become a senior OT, leading a team.
If you're considering a career as an OT apprentice, my advice would be to go for it! It's a challenging and rewarding career path that offers endless opportunities for growth and development. If you have a passion for care and helping others, then occupational therapy could be the perfect fit for you.
Growth and career progression at Optalis
Choosing a career is more than just climbing the corporate ladder; it's about finding purpose, personal growth, and making a meaningful impact. We spoke to Minza Matondo, who has recently taken on her new senior role as Lead Care Worker at Suffolk Lodge, about her journey and how Optalis has supported her growth and progression.
Minza began her career at Suffolk Lodge over 12 years ago while pursuing her studies. Starting as a part-time care worker, she quickly discovered the rewards and fulfilment that working in care brings. Minza explained
"I worked part time during my studies. I enjoy working with the residents, supporting and engaging them. It makes you feel like you are doing something special."
The positive impact she made on the lives of residents encouraged her to pursue a career in care. Upon completing her university degree, Minza applied for a full-time position.
Over the years Minza has continued to develop her skills and knowledge, she has pursued additional qualifications, including her NVQ Level 2 in Care and Support. Minza explains how she has been able to progress and build her career. Saying
"I wanted to progress in care, as I see care being my career now. My manager is very supportive and encouraged me to try acting up to see if I enjoyed the role. I started the role in Jan 2023 and then took the role permanently in March 2023. I now supervise five of our team members. I also deal with a lot of the paperwork and admin tasks for the residents, such as speaking to the GP and other professionals. The is a lot of difference between the roles, with a lot more responsibility but I enjoy the challenge."
"Optalis are supporting me to continue to develop my skills, I have been allocated to attend several courses including supervision, higher level fire training and managerial Positive Behaviour Support training. While Minza is content in her current role, she recognises that Optalis offers a wealth of opportunities for career progression. With a range of services available within the organisation, she knows that when she is ready, she can explore new avenues and continue to grow professionally.
Read more about our different roles below
Caroline joined Optalis over eight years ago, she currently works in our Extra Care service in Wokingham. The service has 19 flats, with some residents who receive care support packages. We spoke to Caroline about her role as a support worker.
Caroline explained that she usually works either a 7:00am to 2:30pm shift or a 2:30 to 9pm. Caroline described her morning shift to us so that we could understand what her role involved.
“I start the day with the team on shift, we get a handover from the night staff and discuss anything that needs to be done that day. I also read the comms book to update myself.
We are given a call list and go and do the calls. Working in a fixed location means that I know everyone’s needs across the service and can support any of the calls. This might include personal care, assisting with medication, laundry, supporting a person to get ready to go to an appointment.
We also do welfare checks for the resident’s who do not receive a care support package, where we check in on them during the day to make sure they are ok.
The calls we are given are based around the care needs of each person, we have to flex and adapt depending on the person’s needs that day. We are usually allocated six people a shift, and two to three of those people we support with another carer on a double up call. The team work well together and we can always call on each other if needed. By 10:30am everyone’s morning routine is generally done and I can take a short break.
At around 11am, we support the residents with their morning routine, from assisting with toileting, to helping people to choose and prepare lunch. Some people need a bit of support to use the microwave and we have some people who need support to eat and drink their meals. It is really varied and each call is different.
After lunch we do a bit of house work and domestic calls before heading back to the office to do handover, write the care notes and record anything in the handover book, and then it’s time to head home.”
“It’s a great team, everyone’s really supportive. You learn a lot and grow as a person. There is a good support network if you want to train and progress but there is no pressure to.”
Mandy started out working for Optalis Day Services and was redeployed to the Short Term Support and Reablement Team (STS&R) during the pandemic. She has really taken to the role of Reablement Assistant, so much so, that she recently took up a permanent position within the team. She talked to us about her experiences so far, and why the role appeals to her:
Mandy explains: "I enjoy the interaction I have with our customers. I am going into people’s homes, often they are unwell and I may be the only person they see all day. They are happy to see me. I will work with a customer for a short period of time, around 4-6 weeks, and in that time you really start to see a positive difference."
What does a typical day look like?
I work shift work, an early shift is 7am-3pm and late shift is 3pm- 11pm. Each shift, I am given a schedule of care calls which I work my way through. The day is spilt into 4 blocks of ‘calls’
- Morning Calls, 7am-11am
- Lunch Calls, 12pm-3pm
- Tea Calls, 3pm-6pm
- Evening Calls, 6pm -11pm
The number of calls a customer has over the course of the day, depends on what they need. We would support people with a range of daily living tasks, including personal care, getting dressed, meal preparation and other tasks around the home. The level of support the person receives also depends on what they need, for example, we may make a meal for the customer or supervise them preparing their own meal.
Everyone is so helpful, supportive and easy to talk to. I did not have experience of working in this way before, so started out shadowing more experienced colleagues. They took the lead and I was able to follow and learn along the way. Now I’m on my own I know I can call on the team for support at any time.