Name: Darren Sharpe
Role: Support worker
Age: 53
Region: Flintshire
Previous career: Manager in the plastics industry

What did you do before you became a support worker?

I worked in the plastics industry for over 30 years. I started out in the industry producing plastic containers, fuel tanks, sailing boats and various cosmetic products for large international companies, and then moved on to shift supervision roles. This led into management positions, where I spent the majority of my time in the sector.

What made you decide to become a support worker?

Although I’d been successful, I didn’t find my old role hard to leave behind. 34 years in the same industry had taken its toll, and I started to feel jaded and hungry for a new challenge. I’d given my life and soul to my job, often working 60 to 70 hours a week, getting up in the early hours to catch international flights and experiencing 24/7 responsibility and pressure.

I came to realise that I still had the enthusiasm and time to try something totally different with a better work-life balance so I decided to follow in the footsteps of my support worker daughter, who encouraged me to give the job a go.

What does your current role involve?

I’m now a support worker specialising in helping with employment. I spend the first three days of the week supporting a gentleman in his role collecting recycling around the Flintshire region. On Thursdays I work as a job coach, training, mentoring and finding the right work opportunities for people supported by Hft.

Are there any similarities between the two roles?

Although support work is really different from my previous career, I’ve actually found that the communication and problem-solving skills I gained in manufacturing are transferrable into the care sector.

How has becoming a support worker changed your life?

Support work can be more difficult, but it’s also more rewarding – this definitely suits my nature. I’m a real people person and can use these skills to help people flourish, with the fantastic support of my team. Seeing people I support achieving independence in their communities and workplaces, with huge smiles on their faces, is fantastic – the job satisfaction here is brilliant.

I had begun to feel stale in my old role, where the financial rewards came at a cost. This is a different world – I now work a 30-hour, four day week, and enjoy spending time with my family, something I missed out on during my previous career. Every job has its challenges and I sometimes still find it hard to switch off but I’m definitely happier.

What skills do you think you need to be a great support worker?

I think you need to have great communication skills, be receptive to change and hold the right values.

Find out more about becoming a support worker on our jobs page.