Lucy @ Somerset County Council
Lucy Wilkins, Business Administration Apprentice at Somerset County Council
Inspirational Lucy turned her Administration Apprenticeship into a life-long career, with her hard work and innovation being recognised by the Prime Minister and Queen along the way.
Life changing news
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When Lucy Wilkins, now 34, from Yeovil, left school after A Levels, she gained a place at university through clearing, although was never certain that it was the right option for her. She struggled to cope with the change in lifestyle, as it was her first time away from home alone, and decided to leave after some months.
After leaving university, she spent the following months travelling and trying to decide what to do next, when at 21 years old, she was diagnosed with a life changing condition called Usher Syndrome. Lucy has been deaf her whole life and uses hearing aids to understand what people say, but she also learnt with this diagnosis that she would eventually go blind through a condition called Retinitus Pigmentosa. After her diagnosis, Lucy had been out of work for a while, and was looking for any opportunities that arose. It was when her mum came across a Foundation Business Administration Apprenticeship at Somerset Country Council, that she decided to put her worries aside and throw herself into the role. Little did she know that ten years later she would have received a host of awards for her work, including one of the highest accolades in business from former Prime Minister David Cameron.
Climbing the ladder
Throughout her time at Somerset County Council, Lucy had the opportunity to experience a range of varied roles. She worked firstly in the Ground maintenance team, and then progressed to the administration department. Since then she worked within the Frameworks Team, supporting the property services division, with Legal Services to support their ICT operations, and next on to the Business Development Team where she dealt with customer feedback. Lucy excelled in these posts and completed the foundation apprenticeships followed by the advanced apprenticeship, and then obtained a permanent post within the Council. Lucy is now based in the Communications Team, where she leads three people in processing information requests. Lucy's day to day tasks involve communicating with a range of people, helping colleagues understand key legislation, and authorising the release of information.
Breaking down barriers
Although Lucy believes that the main barrier she faced along the way was her own lack of faith in her abilities, she also faced challenges relating to her disability. Lucy had to use a guide cane in the winter, keep the office clear of obstacles so she wouldn't get injured, and install equipment to help her use the computer and phone. Lucy overcame these challenges by being open to education others about her disability, by never being afraid to have difficult conversations and through the full support and co-operation of the council.
Looking back on her apprenticeship, Lucy says: "In my view, I wouldn't have been able to learnt he skills I needed to be able to get to the position I am in today, without my apprenticeship. I know that university and college didn't work for me, I am much better at learning whilst doing, and the apprenticeship gave me the opportunity to do that."
A royal success
To say that Lucy has overcome the challenges she faced is an understatement, rather, she has far surpassed the expectations of what she believed she could achieve. She said she felt honoured to win the Regional Apprentice of the Year, and National Personal Achiever at the same National Apprenticeship Awards ceremony in 2006. Furthermore, in recognition of the difference she made to her work environment, the Learning and Skills Council named her Personal Achiever of the Year in 2006 and she was invited to Buckingham Palace for a reception where she met the Queen. As if meeting a Royal wasn't enough, Lucy's greatest accolade came when she was presented with the Jaeguer Le Coultre Business Personality of the Year by David Cameron in the same year!
Lucy is a true inspiration; whose enthusiasm is infectious and courage in the face of adversity is admirable. Although she has already achieved so much, her desire to keep learning and experiencing new things is clear. When asked where she would like to be in the future, she lists the promotions she would like within the council, and says that perhaps even one day she will lead it!