Meet Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards Special Recognition Award winner Gemma Tuckey

The inaugural Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards recognised the best talent in the county with a special presentation evening on Wednesday 8th March 2017 at the Marlborough Enterprise Centre in Woodstock, during the 10th National Apprenticeship Week.

The Special Recognition Award was won by Gemma Tuckey, who completed both Intermediate and Advanced Business Administration Apprenticeships in the Joint Commissioning service at Oxfordshire County Council. Gemma’s role was in the Engagement Team, helping to ensure that everyone in Oxfordshire - children, young people (including children in care and care leavers), parents, carers, adults and older people – could have their say on important issues.

Gemma initially studied Health and Social Care at college after leaving King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage, but decided to opt for an Apprenticeship instead.

“I got low grades and was struggling to see a light at the end of the tunnel.” said Gemma. “My Apprenticeship gave me the chance to experience working with a wide range of service users and other organisations, giving me a fantastic grounding for the role I currently perform. I quickly learnt the way that my team functioned and adjusted the way that I worked to suit them. They trusted me enough to let me run with a piece of work no matter how big or small it was, which meant I learnt a great deal, often using my own initiative.”

Making a difference

During her time as an Apprentice, Gemma made an exceptional difference to both her colleagues and the service users she engaged with. She learnt how to adapt her communication and work to meet the needs of vulnerable people – such as those with disabilities, young carers and children in care - and help them to get their voice heard. She shared this learning with her whole team to ensure that they could benefit from her insights into supporting vulnerable people.

Her approach to consulting with service users following a crisis involving a supported living service provider was so well regarded that it was profiled in the Telegraph as an excellent example of person-centred co-ordinated team work. Gemma created a guide to “meaningful involvement of service users in person-centred planning” to help other Local Authorities incorporate what she had learned from the experience into their practices.

Oxfordshire County Council Workforce Initiatives Manager Rose Rolle-Rowan, who nominated Gemma for the award, said: “Gemma’s achievements are particularly notable given her personal circumstances. She is an independent young person who is self-motivated and driven. In part, this is because she has such significant responsibilities in her personal life as a young carer and has had to take on an extraordinary level of independence from a young age. Her original commute to work involved a 1.5 hour bus ride each way (this was the case for over 18 months!). Sometimes completing Apprenticeship coursework was challenging because of the difficult balancing act she continues to perform. We feel that her achievements are even more significant when this is borne in mind.”

Onwards and upwards

After completing her Advanced Apprenticeship in September 2016, Gemma secured a permanent role within Joint Commissioning as a Quality and Contracts Officer, a move that saw her promoted several grades.

Gemma said: “Since completing my Apprenticeship, I have successfully gained a more senior job in the Learning Disabilities Team in the Council, which largely involves ensuring those with learning disabilities get the good care that they deserve. I wouldn’t have had the skills and experience to apply for the job without completing my Apprenticeship and all the “on the job” learning has set me up brilliantly to get off to a flying start. I worked hard in my role and dealing with large projects and issues in my day to day work helped me gain the experience to work in my job today. I really enjoy meeting service users in their homes, talking to them about their interests and making sure they are living life to the full. My time as an Apprentice in the Engagement Team gave me a fantastic grounding for communicating with people.”

Award-winning Gemma

Gemma won Oxfordshire County Council Apprentice of the Year in 2015 “in recognition of her commitment, high standard of work and her positive role model to the children and young people she works with.”

Gemma Tuckey Winner Apprentice of the year 2015 Small.jpg

She can now add the inaugural Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards Special Recognition Award trophy to her collection.

Gemma said: “I never thought I would win this award but I did. I am so proud of my journey and am grateful for all opportunities that the Council has handed me in the last 3 years. Winning the award was a reminder of how far I've come and how my Apprenticeship has helped me to become so much more independent. It's given me the chance to live my own life and some time to think about myself."

The Award was sponsored by NatWest, who chose Gemma as their winner from amongst a very strong field of entrants.

Lisa Robey, Director for Business Banking for NatWest Oxford & Chilterns, explains why they chose Gemma as their winner, against some very tough competition: “Gemma was a real inspiration, she showed great tenacity to carry on with her Apprenticeship despite many personal and external challenges that many people would have buckled under. She then used her personal experiences and challenges to help others going through similar situations, which is just fantastic.”

Gemma’s words of advice…

“I’ll keep it simple: try it, you never know where an Apprenticeship will take you! I would also recommend to a new Apprentice that you should never be afraid of letting your managers and those around you know if you need more support, as they can always find ways of supporting and helping you.”