The Learner of the Year award recognises students and apprentices of all ages who have shown commitment to their learning whilst continuing to provide the highest quality care and services.
This year’s winner was Greg Smith, Business Administration Coordinator, within the Prison Mental Health Team. We spoke to him about his apprenticeship, what motivated him to keep going with his studies and how it feels to be recognised with this award.
How does it feel to have won a Pride of DPT award?
I really wasn’t expecting to be nominated and definitely not to win. It was so surprising. When I listened to the nomination of the other finalist - Liz Dale, Senior Dementia Practitioner - and I thought she definitely would win it. When they said my name I wasn’t sure they said it to start with, so I was kind of stunned! It was really lovely. Just being nominated is a real recognition and honour (without trying to sound too cliché!) To win it, has taken that to the next level. It was amazing.
There were times when I was doing my course where I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish it, because it felt like such a long way away. It felt like I had these mountains of work, but I was really well supported through the whole process by my team and my college tutor as well. To have that support is what really got me through it. I’ve got one final day left for the end point assessment day next month, but winning this award has been a lovely way to end my studies.
I assumed my service manager had nominated me, but the nomination was recommend by my college. My tutor had approached my manager, so that was doubly lovely. Both teams who helped me get through my course had an input in the nomination, which makes it even better.
One thing that’s been really lovely is getting emails from people I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while. People have seen the news on DAISY and got in touch with me to say well done and ask how things are going. I’m even meeting up with a consultant I used to work with in a couple of weeks. It’s been lovely and an unexpected side effect of winning.
I joke to my colleagues saying: “I won’t let it get to my head!” and then say I’m changing my title to the award-winning Greg Smith in large capital letters!
What does your current role involve? And what career path have you taken?
Our Prison Mental Health team is small, there’s only five of us in total, so I only directly manage one other person. My role is a lot more focused on data collection because of the way our service sits outside of DPT’s core information systems. I produce graphs and reports etc.
I joined DPT in 2006, when I started as a Learning Disability (LD) support worker. I then moved to mental health support work before moving across to admin. I’ve been in LD, acute adults, older adults and community mental health teams, and now the prison service. Working in a range of services means you get to see things from both sides and have an understanding into the problems each team face. You really see how people are working hard to deliver the best service they can, but circumstances around them can be quite difficult.
I’ve been in the Prison Mental Health service since 2017 – this was just after we moved care providers to DPT. We inherited a service that wasn’t very well structured, it had been a bit neglected and not as well managed, as you would have hoped, by the previous care provider. We had loads of changes and bought the service from being almost zero, to having consistently one of the highest performing supervision rates, appraisals and assessments. We’re consistently seeing our initial triages with patients well within our contractual time scales. It’s been great to be a part of that and be involved in shaping things.
What do you enjoy most about the role?
I really enjoy the team. We’ve got really good relationships with each other and we’ve known each other for a long time. My colleagues are all very capable people and very motivating to be around. I think if you’re in a role where there’s any kind of differences of opinion and you can resolve it peacefully then that’s great. When personalities start to clash that can make your job difficult. We never have that. We have some issues, like any team does, but for the most part we resolve things amicably.
I’ve been lucky that a lot of teams I’ve worked within DPT have been like that. It’s been a wholesome place to work. There’s always been a real sense of teamwork. You may not always agree with everyone about everything all the time but that’s what makes teams good. That’s how you normally find a better way forward, as no one person can see all ends and goals. To be in a team where it can be open is so important. I’ve found people have always been open and willing to listen. It’s a real telling thing about our culture, we don’t just say it. It’s not just our values on our website. It’s actually how we are, how we act and how we work and that’s really important.
What did your apprenticeship course involve?
I’m just coming to the end of my CIM level 5 apprenticeship and diploma in management and leadership. I’ve been what they call an “accidental manager.” I’ve gone into a role where I’m managing other people, having worked up through the ranks. I didn’t qualify in business administration or anything like that. I did an NVQ level 2 in business administration a couple of jobs back, and that was the best qualification I had. I wanted to do this course to cement the knowledge and experience I had, plus gain new knowledge and understanding of management theories and ways of doing things.
What has motivated you to push through the challenges and pursue the course?
The fact that my team were really supportive. My managers have been really encouraging and allowed me to take time and extra support. They helped with whatever I needed. My college tutor was also really supportive and I could contact her pretty much any time of the day. She would give really clear and really helpful feedback. It was the people around me that kept the motivation up. I can’t do anything with a good support network. You can do a lot on your own, but with a team you’re unstoppable.
I also didn’t want to be one of those people who enrolled on a course and dropped out. I appreciate some people’s lives mean they sometimes can’t finish a course, but I didn’t want to be that person dropping out because I was finding the workload difficult. It was about working smarter, not harder. Rather than spending hours researching things online, it was about relating things to my own working experience. Once I made that switch with my assignment writing it was quicker and I was getting better results.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Within the course, there was a point where I was about three assignments behind everyone else and I thought I’m not going to finish this. I managed to catch up and finish ahead of some of the other people. The shift in how I was approaching my assignments made a difference.
Within the role, it’s been changing things from zero measurable output to being able to show what we do with data. Bringing in those robust systems to enable us to do that has been a big thing for me personally.
Will you do another course in the future?
I’m very happy with the work I’ve done, but also very happy the course is now finished! I can just focus on my job again. I wouldn’t want to jump back into another qualification immediately. Right now, I’m happy where I am, I know my job and can do it, and work with good people. That matters a lot. Certainly in the future, I’d look at doing the next level of the CIM course, but will definitely give some time to focus on work, as well as some freedom!
What do you do to unwind?
I have the joy of two children, which any parent will tell you is infinitely relaxing! I spend time with the family and that’s important. I also love music. I’ve been in a band and I’m now in an acoustic duo with a friend of mine. For me, it’s about having that creative outlet.
And finally… how would you sum up your team and your role in one word?
My team in one word would be ‘awesome’. For my role, I would say ‘rewarding’.