Q & A with Matt Thomas, Welfare and Support Manager
How long have you worked at the Foundation?
I started in September 2007, so I have been here nearly 7 years. I started a couple of months after Cohort 2 started so I’ve worked with every group but the very first.
What is your job role?
Welfare & Support manager. My role is to help the apprentices to overcome any barriers to their success in their training and ultimately in getting and staying in work. When we look at the issues the apprentices usually present, one of the major factors is often mental health issues with effects such as depression; anxiety; low self-esteem; low confidence levels and lack of emotional literacy, which in turn affect the young person’s relationships and emotional and social well being.
How does your programme link with the training?
The welfare programme, especially the 12 days of group workshops that all the apprentices attend, is to help them with their personal development. We work on having the right attitude to succeed, learning to motivate oneself, communication and team work skills. They learn about themselves and the way their mind and body works and about their own emotional intelligence – All the skills that people who are successful have at their disposal.
Through the summer we also run an outdoor team challenge programme that takes these skills and understanding even further, looking at and working on team work; attitude and motivation; communication and interaction; behaviours and awareness of safety.
What benefit does it bring to the programme?
I believe that through the classroom and outdoor programmes, the team of apprentices learn inter and intra personal skills that will be highly beneficial all through their working life. We teach the apprentices to have the right attitudes and beliefs to succeed, we show them the positive benefits of learning and leading an active, purposeful life. So through these programmes the apprentices are in the right frame of mind and ultimately motivated and passionate to get the most out of such a great opportunity.
What kinds of support do you offer?
I also offer 1-2-1 support and personal development coaching. I use CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and Hypnotherapy techniques to help the apprentices to understand themselves, their thinking patterns, behaviours and habits. Together we tailor a package of support that enables them to make the changes in their life that they would like to.
Can anyone receive your support whilst on the course?
How does the Welfare Programme help apprentices?
Personal development, social and communication skills, attitude and motivation, breaking limiting beliefs and enhancing self-esteem and confidence all allowing apprentices to make the most of the opportunity of being on the programme.
What kinds of techniques do you use?
Personal development challenges (team and solo), Cognitive Behaviour Therapy techniques, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Hypnotherapy & Motivational Interviewing.
Where will the sessions take place?
Group Programme – At Cornwall College alongside their VRQ Level 1
Summer Outdoor Team Challenge – Out in the wilds of Cornwall
1-2-1 sessions – In my shed on the beach!!
What other opportunities are there on the Welfare Programme?
Each welfare package is personally tailored in consultation with the apprentice so there is the opportunity to work on anything really. Sometimes we may refer an apprentice onto a specialised agency if a more specialised approach is needed.
If you could give us three qualities you look for in an apprentice chef what would you say?
Enthusiastic, honest and open to new experiences (willing to give something a try).
Tell us about your hypnotherapy.
It’s really effective in helping the apprentices to address any behaviours or beliefs that have become unconscious patterns or habits. Such things as negative thinking patterns that lead to negative behaviours can be addressed with hypnotherapy by talking directly with the unconscious mind that now holds these habits. Changes can be made by the apprentice at an unconscious level a lot easier than at a conscious level.
Also I believe the imagination is a very powerful tool. One that, depending on how we use it, can help us to succeed or can commit us to misery and perpetual failure, anxiety and depression. Using hypnotherapy you can learn to use your imagination in a most powerful and positive way.
Hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis are also great tools to deal with stress and is sometimes taught to apprentices purely as a relaxation technique to escape the pressures of everyday life stresses and strains.
What’s the most common welfare issue you come across? How do you tackle it?
Anxiety and depression seem to becoming more common, along with lack of self-esteem or low confidence. The best ways to tackle these issues is through learning, exercise and mixing with other people. Becoming a chef involves all of these. As a chef you are constantly learning, you are in an active physical role and working as part of a team. Cooking is Therapy!!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about applying for the programme?
Know that you want to be a chef, come with the right attitude that you will give things a go in life and see how it turns out. Have a positive attitude and believe that you will succeed. Passion and enthusiasm will also go a long way in helping you to achieve success.
“Nothing great in life was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”