Thames Reach
Monday 20 November 2017
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Issues for trainees

Below is a list of issues that have arisen with our first group of 26 trainees.

These are not uniquely related to a service or department, as the same issues can affect trainees whether they work in a housing project or in finance.

However, patterns have emerged that indicate that some issues are more likely to occur at certain points in the 9-month traineeship than others, so we have divided them by time period.

Issues can also occur by themselves or as a cluster, e.g. an increase in drinking may mask other problems.

Months 1–3: The 'settling into the job' phase.

Months 4–6: The honeymoon period is over. 

The trainee realises that s/he has to get up every day and come into work. There is exhaustion from working full-time or over-working, coupled with anxiety about performing well enough in the job, and pressure not to let themselves, GROW or Thames Reach down.

Months 7–9: Anxiety about getting a job intensifies. 

Issues for trainees
Issue  Solutions  Months  Case studies 

Recognising this is the wrong job

 Able to find another role in a different department. This may need to be an exceptional response, to avoid future candidates applying for jobs they don’t necessarily want but hope that once they are employed they will be transferred to a job that matches their interests

1st – 3rd


Lacking capability – described as ‘a bridge too far’. E.g., not using own initiative in planning and prioritising time

Ensure that the competency framework is implemented so trainees understand in which areas they are progressing and in which they need to improve

Conduct structured supervision sessions and three- and six-month reviews

Monthly briefing about the trainee’s progress sent by placement supervisors to life coaches

Ensure the life coach is involved in the six-month review where the trainee’s career path is discussed and decisions are made on how the organisation can best support the trainee to progress into a job they are better suited to

4th – 6th




Unidentified/unaddressed literacy/dyslexia issues

A robust written test set at the right level at the recruitment stage

Commitment on behalf of the organisation to support employees with dyslexia issues e.g. provide assessments, adaptations of workplaces, and additional literacy support

Commission Personal Assessment Report for the trainee

4th – 6th 


Team working – making decisions on their own without considering the impact on the team

Address through supervision

4th onwards

Struggling to come off benefits and live on a low income

Ensuring trainees have accurate information on all in employment benefit entitlements – through written handouts before and during their induction month, and access to on-line benefit calculators

Time off in the first two weeks of employment to sort out their benefit claims 

Weekly salary cheques paid in arrears for the first 6 weeks to ensure they came off of benefits (or majority of benefits) smoothly

1st – 3rd



Dealing with debt

Life coach provides trainee with information about debt counselling service based in the community

1st – 3rd


Asking other members of staff for loans or for salary advances

Support from life coach on living on a low income/budget

Guidance from placement supervisor about inappropriateness of request, making reference to Code of Conduct?

Advice for staff on how to respond to such requests

1st – 3rd


Stress related to moving house at the same time as starting employment

Ensure upcoming potentially stressful life changes are discussed at interview

Encourage trainees to discuss upcoming events with their placement supervisor and book annual leave

Life coaches ensure that trainees have a good support system during these periods of change

1st – 6th


Increased alcohol intake or drug/alcohol relapse due to life and work stresses

Conduct an induction training session on Dealing with Stress at Work, including relapse prevention plan; access to confidential counselling service

Ensure a trusting relationship is established between trainees and life coaches in order that trainees seek appropriate support (sounding-board or referral person) when required 

Expect that there may be some trainees who relapse. Ensure that managers are prepared with information on how to implement the sickness policy

Encourage trainees to maintain existing professional support throughout the traineeship

1st – 6th


Lack of social networks

Incorporate w ell into placement team.

Encourage attendance at Peer Support groups

Life coach to support trainee to develop new social networks in free time


Difficulty in developing a new identity as an employee

Help trainee develop sense of belonging in organisation, e.g. meeting CEO

Meeting with other former service users who have made the transition successfully, e.g. during induction

4th – 6th



Mental health relapse

Encourage trainees to maintain existing professional support




Longer term sickness

Differentiate holiday from sickness entitlement at induction

Make provision for returning to work on flexible or part-time basis



Pressure to succeed

Involve the life coach in reviews

Establish fortnightly supervision, where appropriate, in the early months of the placement

Offer pre-placement training on the competencies for trainees to demystify them and to establish a clear structure to trainees' learning experiences

Ensure good communication between placement supervisors and life coaches, so that life coaches are made aware of possible work-related issues that may have an impact on the trainees' personal coping strategies



Anxiety about getting a job

Encourage both organisation and trainee to accept this anxiety as normal

Offer comprehensive job search package

Hold trainees back from applying for work before passing successful 6-month review

Ensure recruitment policy allows trainees to apply successfully for internal jobs

Ensure trainees are getting honest and appropriate feedback throughout placement




Issues where trainees have moved into work
Issue Solutions Months Case studies

Dealing with feeling overwhelmed by level of responsibility and volume of work

Prepare trainee for new role towards end of traineeship

Provide life coaching support for 3-6 months into the new job

Encourage peer support with other trainees who have gained employment – informal may be better than set up through organisation




Failing to pass 6-month probationary period

Prepare new employees for all eventual outcomes including extension to, or failure of, probationary period

Explaining to new employee that there are further thresholds to cross before being confirmed in employment