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Reflections On My Apprenticeship, Jade Kilkenny

BLOGS | 2nd June 2020

Two years as an Apprentice with Community Justice Scotland – a place like no other. Always there for each other, it’s a caring, genuine, place to be. I will be a better me.

Starting this job, I had a totally different perception of how it would go – I thought I was going to be working in the Police by the end or getting an SVQ 2 in Justice. This apprenticeship was not like other apprenticeships; I didn’t have to complete modules and I had mentors who supported me on a professional and personal level. I got a decent wage, which is really important as people who apply for apprenticeships don’t always have family to support them. I managed my own diary and worked with a structure; this gave me responsibility and they trusted me, without doubt. I got to pick what I wanted to achieve and what teams I wanted to learn from. This apprenticeship was not just about developing professionally, it was also developing my skills for the future. Karyn (McCluskey) says all the time, I look like a different woman – and I feel like one too. I came into this job as Jade Kilkenny, not the girl who had lived trauma.

I have more than one mentor and they support me in different ways. They help me to flourish and grow, and that makes me laugh and feel good. They guided me to the right path for my future. I have been able to discover myself and learn ways to cope with trauma, and create a new way of surviving and thriving. I have developed skills and qualities that I did not think were possible. Choosing my mentors in my own time was crucial for me, not because I don’t believe they’re all wonderful people, but because I needed to discover people for myself. This made my relationships stronger. Having mentors encouraged me and pushed me to keep going, especially having lived a chaotic lifestyle and having low self-esteem.

I feel accepted. I have a designated Line Manager, but they are more than that. Their role at Community Justice Scotland does not specify that they need to be trauma-informed, but they are. From the beginning, during my interview, I knew they were special people. I connected with everyone straight away. I interviewed them, I questioned how they would support me and I was humbled by how supportive they were.

My mentors encouraged me to improve my work and monitor my progress, but they didn’t want me to just succeed, they wanted me excel – in my own time.

I have special relationships with people in the team, and these are for life now. I really struggle with trust, but as time went on I started to believe what they thought of me. I find education hard, but I realised education is not just about academic learning -the team taught me that learning is a part of life. I am able to focus and be more self-disciplined in my work. I learned how to be a professional and have belief in myself. Although initially reluctant, I understand having a routine is essential for me and this keeps me on the right path.

I choose to get up and be passionate about what I do, whereas before it was more about getting by. I value being sharp and smart because people take you seriously.

I still have improvements to make but I believe I am more than just my experiences. I believe I have skills and worth in this cruel world. I have learned what chaos looks like and where it comes from. Moving on from the past is extremely hard, but I know now it’s not the life I want to lead. I also know that some relationships are negative and can consume you – you can only control your own behaviour and reactions. Not every relationship will be healthy.

Working in a government building with high security was a new experience for me, and at the start I didn’t feel like I belonged. Sometimes I found it hard because people were dressed up, and at that time I didn’t have the confidence to believe I was worthy enough to be there. As time went on, I realised CJS was unique from other places and professionals. I was being paid to develop my skills and give my views. I was in a room with teachers, youth workers, doctors, researchers, analysts, writers, campaigners, managers, development workers, HR workers, police officers, policy workers and residential workers. I came out of my shell as days went on, and I realised it was people who just wanted to make a difference, like me. Everyone had their own journey, just like me, and people were not afraid or ashamed to show me this.

Over time as my confidence built up, I started to see my value.

In this job, I had great and unusual opportunities. I was able to go on training courses and attend events that were new to me. I learned about new technology, like electronic monitoring, and gained lots of new expertise. I have written blogs about how important education is, and I have been able to share my views about Corporate Parenting. I filmed this vlog about my role and what I have achieved. I developed my office skills so that I could contribute to the office. Sending emails is such a presumed easy task but I found this really difficult – how to confidently send a professional email. I learned about research and the importance of having various types of research which is vital for services and the people who use them. I learned how to conduct a research paper, and to use policy to influence decision making. This made me realise how much policy can influence someone’s life and relationships within services. I had the opportunity of organising a Personality Profiling training day for the whole CJS team. I came up with this training because I wanted everyone to understand each other, and we got to learn more about each other’s dos and don’ts within the working environment.

I went on to complete a qualification: Award in Education and Training. This qualification gave me more of an understanding about the preparation it takes to do successful group facilitation as well as developing my skills and confidence.

There should be apprenticeships like this everywhere because it has allowed me to develop and learn whilst creating relationships with lots of people.

CJS has allowed me to be myself, make mistakes and choose my own development with guidance. After two years, I have grown passionate about community education. That’s why when I leave, I will be going to university to study for a degree in Community Education. Being an Apprentice at CJS helped me realise what I am good at. I enjoy making a difference, and I realised I can make a difference without relying on using my past trauma.

I can make a difference being Jade Kilkenny.  I am leaving my imprint, and I will be back!