Unlocking Potential: The Optalis Learning and Development Team

In recent conversation with Ruth Walsh – Learning and Development Lead for Optalis, we delved into our progressive approach to training and development, exploring the current offer, and future aspirations.

The Optalis Training and Development Framework has been evolving over the past few years, offering our people increasing opportunities for personal and professional growth. This includes in-person and online courses delivered by our inhouse training team, NVQ qualifications and a range of apprenticeships.

A culture of inclusive learning

The team place a great emphasis on inclusivity for all learners at Optalis. Helping them to succeed with their training through proactive support and adjustments.

Ruth explains “We ask for regular feedback from our training, and one of the questions we ask is about reasonable adjustments. Around 30% of people have declared they have a learning need.”

The team have worked to ensure that training is accessible to neurodiverse learners. Since the introduction of tools such as fidget items, the team has seen a marked increase in people's concentration.

Ruth adds, 

“A lot of people have got fear of learning, because of bad experiences in the past. However, our line of work is not necessarily based on people’s academic achievement. Social Care is based on people’s ability to communicate with others, show empathy and make a difference to our customer's lives. It’s important our training delivery and assessments reflect this.”

Stepping stones to success

The team are invested in creating good foundations for all Optalis team members to be able to pursue the learning they wish to complete. For some people, this might mean achieving fundamental skills qualifications, before starting an apprenticeship. Ruth explains: “Anyone accessing an apprenticeship will need a GCSE pass grade in Maths and English. Many people in our industry didn't necessarily get their qualifications or they weren't supported enough to get there. The fundamentals course provides people with that starting block. It also helps people get back into the routine of studying, before moving into a higher-level qualification.”

The introduction of the ‘Access to Higher Education’ Policy, means Optalis will fund a bridging course to support people who do not have the required qualifications to access a degree-level apprenticeship. Enabling people to develop their knowledge and skills and prepare them for university level qualifications

Ruth said: “I’m not aware of any other care organisation that has a policy of this kind in place. It really highlights our commitment to support people who have aspirations for learning, but have never really had the opportunity in the past.”

Apprenticeships: studying and learning through work

The Learning and Development Team currently facilitate a host of apprenticeships across Optalis. These include level 2 and 3 in Care, Finance, Management, Learning and Development, Social Work and Occupational Therapy.

The team are also in the process of setting up a level 3 apprenticeship in Business Administration. This will run as a pilot in the spring, and if successful, will be offered to administrators across our services.

Ruth has ambitious plans to expand the apprenticeship offer further, with the support of the recently appointed Apprenticeship Coordinator and by maximizing the apprenticeship levy available.

Future plans include, developing a Level 3 Nursing Associate apprenticeship, which will help team members prepare for a nursing degree course.

Growing the learning and development offer

With the recent introduction of nursing care, to the Optalis portfolio of services. The team are planning to create a preceptorship programme, which will support newly qualified nurses, to integrate into their new team and place of work. It helps newly qualified nurses translate their knowledge into everyday practice, grow in confidence and understand how to apply professional standards to their work.

The team have also recently relaunched the Care Certificate qualification. This level 1 qualification is provided to new carers and is linked to people’s probation. Once they have completed this, team members can choose to do their level 2 in Health and Social care. Level 3 in Health and Social care is then offered if the team member moves into a senior role.

The team’s plans for the future, include building a quality framework for trainers, and the introduction of specialist Positive Behaviour Support for teams. As well as continued expansion of the training available, for example, customer service, management and supervision training and an increasing offer of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) opportunities.

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