Aberlour Futures, part of Aberlour Children’s Charity, is an SQA Accredited Training Centre that is unique in its position as a non-profit making, voluntary sector training organisation. Since 1994, they have provided and delivered a range of qualifications, and training for the children’s services workforce in Northeast Scotland.
One of the services that the charity offers is their structured Modern and Technical Apprenticeship programmes, designed for those aged 16-24 to learn the skills and competencies needed for a career in childcare. The Aberlour Futures SVQ staff team is trained to ensure each young learner can access the right opportunities and make the most appropriate choices for their future.
We spoke to Declan, originally one of Aberlour Futures’ modern apprentices, who is now currently undertaking his Level Four Technical Apprenticeship with Aberlour Futures. Declan details his learning journey in which Aberlour Futures has supported through their services since 2017.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Declan Hoskins, and I started my childcare learning journey with Aberlour Futures through their Skills for Work programme as a pupil at St. Machar Academy. This programme became the springboard for my choice of career working with children. A year later in 2017, I began working at the Bright Horizons Treehouse Nursery where I acquired my initial job with support from Aberlour Futures and began my Modern Apprenticeship.
I have experienced several job roles at the nursery during my time as a modern apprentice to a qualified early years practitioner. Now I am part of the management team at Treehouse Nursery where this managerial experience is beneficial as I am undertaking Aberlour Futures’ Technical Apprenticeship programme. I have definitely seen the progress of my learning journey over these five years, from being a modern apprentice to where I am now as a technical apprentice.
Are you able to describe your learning journey so far with Aberlour Futures?
During secondary school, I gained my Skills for Work National 5 Early Learning and Childcare qualification after a year of studying. An Aberlour Futures Tutor came into school and taught the theory-based work which involved learning about child development in-depth and many other topics. From these class lessons, I was then able to put this theory into practice when I was put on placement at a local primary school.
When I achieved this qualification, I then enrolled in Aberlour Futures’ Modern Apprenticeship programme when I got my first childcare job at the Bright Horizons Treehouse Nursery. During my Modern Apprenticeship, I had a friend who was at college studying a HNC course in childcare. We were always comparing how our learning experiences differed.
As a modern apprentice, I was able to write a more meaningful and reflective account of my role for the award, as I was getting real-time, hands-on experience, which enhanced my learning. Even simple things like attending a staff meeting, working within a team, talking to a parent; I was able to do all of this and gain real-world experience.
Now, I am continuing to progress in my learning journey as I currently undertake my Level 4 Technical Apprenticeship with Aberlour Futures.
What inspired you to do this apprenticeship and childcare in general?
Before pursuing a career in childcare, I never really had an idea for what I wanted to do in the future. My school held a careers fair one day where I found my friend talking to Aberlour Futures at their stall. I joined them and found out what services they offer to school pupils like myself at the time. As a result of this simple conversation, I registered to join Aberlour Futures’ school course where I achieved my first childcare qualification after a year of classes and placement.
I really enjoyed going out on placement as part of this qualification and gaining first-hand, practical experience within a childcare setting. It definitely inspired me to pursue Aberlour Futures’ Modern Apprenticeship programme to help me further towards a career in childcare.
I strongly believe this was the correct stepping-stone for me to enter the world of work. If I had missed this part of my learning journey, I believe nothing else would have fallen into place. By having that initial class with Aberlour Futures, I definitely felt inspired to pursue a career involving childcare.
“Aberlour Futures are really helpful, and I always feel like I can approach them for help or ask any questions about my work. Knowing I have this support definitely makes my current apprenticeship more enjoyable.“
What are you enjoying most about your Technical Apprenticeship so far?
With this current apprenticeship, I am enjoying having a more managerial role within the nursery. My new position involves a lot of reflective practice on the way I manage the staff and team. Through this, I can improve my methods of working as a technical apprentice.
I would say I am open-minded when it comes to my learning and development. I am always looking for ways to enhance my skills. For example, I enjoy being able to research different ways of play and putting my findings into practice at the nursery. Having this flexibility is hugely beneficial for myself as well as the children and my team. It makes my role so much more rewarding and fun.
Being a technical apprentice is also enjoyable as I now know what my expectations are with this particular programme. Aberlour Futures are really helpful, and I always feel like I can approach them for help or ask any questions about my work. They have a great partnership with Bright Horizons which makes this part of my learning journey even better. Knowing I have this support definitely makes my current apprenticeship more enjoyable.
In what ways will the Technical Apprenticeship programme help you further your career in childcare?
I would certainly say by giving me crucial knowledge, skills and competencies needed for a career in childcare. Currently, I am able to provide exceptional care, build good rapport with parents and deliver valuable experiences alongside my team. This apprenticeship in particular is enhancing these skills which makes it so much more valuable.
The Level Four Technical Apprenticeship is certainly of a higher standard compared to the Level Three Modern Apprenticeship. The units that I am currently learning are in relation to legislation and leadership as well as child development and wellbeing.
Child development is important to know and understand as this is how I can enhance my own and the staff team’s practice. Learning the content from these units is helping me within my new management-based role. I have a holistic view and approach to my work instead of just one set vision. This is another way in which the Technical Apprenticeship is helping me further my career.
How would you describe your experience with Aberlour Futures so far?
Aberlour Futures have now supported me and my learning journey for five years which I truly appreciate them for that. I think really highly of them as they look out for my best interests. Their insight, guidance and contacts within the childcare sector have helped with my professional and personal development as I continue to progress.
During the pandemic, Aberlour Futures had to rethink their way of delivering certain services. Pupils who were studying the Foundation Apprenticeship Social Services Children and Young people award at school were unable to go on a placement. Aberlour Futures asked if I could provide mentoring support online. I supported the pupils weekly, shared my knowledge and experience of the nursery with them for the SVQ part of their course.
The pupils would plan activities for their assessments, send them to me and then I would undertake them at the nursery with the children I work with. I would then give the pupils feedback about how their activities worked in a real-life childcare setting.
During this uncertain time, Aberlour Futures recognised that I was looking for something to supplement my apprenticeship. Having this experience was the perfect way for Aberlour Futures to meet the needs for their students as well as enhancing my own learning journey which I really appreciate.
“Aberlour Futures recognise exactly what you need, and they know what the best options are for each individual. They tailor their support to each person and their individual needs.“
What would you like to say to someone who is considering this career path in particular?
I highly recommend anyone considering a career in childcare to follow the apprenticeship route. In college, for example, you get the background understanding and all the theory and some practise. However, I think with this route I’d have really missed out on the practical side of working with children and the experiential hands-on learning that takes place. You certainly need the practice-based knowledge to have a strong reflective account of the work that you do.
The childcare sector continuously evolves so it is essential for current practice to be up-to-date and relevant. Working within a real-life setting through the apprenticeship programme is definitely the way to go as I am able to keep up to date with current best practise, reflect and make improvements to my own practise with support from the team and Aberlour Futures.
By following this particular career path, you build those necessary skills and competencies in order to work with children to the best of your abilities. Undertaking the apprenticeship route is definitely the way forward and I encourage anyone considering a career in childcare to follow this path.
In what ways can Aberlour Futures support someone who wants to pursue this route?
Aberlour Futures provide excellent support as they look for the best interests for each person and tailor the award to your individual learning style as they did for me. Aberlour Futures recognise exactly what you need, and they know what the best options are for each individual.
Aberlour Futures genuinely consider the best options for your career, they give impartial advice if they feel that there is a better option or route for you, they provide you with information that helps you make your own choices and decisions. They tailor their support to each person and their individual needs.
Have you got any plans for the future?
Everyone has their own vision of where they would like to be however, I currently have no definitive plans for the future. Being in this new job role and doing my Technical Apprenticeship is the right place for me at the moment.
If you had asked me five years ago where I would be right now, I would not have expected my answer to still be at Treehouse Nursery. I never expected to be so well thought of I would like to say. Saying this, I am so glad to still be working here at the nursery and grateful to continue my learning journey with them.
There are many doors that I can open and paths that I can follow. I may eventually consider a higher qualification such as the BA degree in Childhood Practice or look towards the quality assurance side of childcare. This would involve ensuring quality care and excellence, helping develop staff teams and benefitting children’s learning which I already enjoy.
With the support available from Aberlour Futures, anything is possible in the future, and I am excited to see what leads from this Technical Apprenticeship.
If you are interested in finding out more about Aberlour Futures and the services they provide, please visit their website at futures.aberlour.org.uk