Meet Sheila - a lifelong learner whose maturity and experience are a credit to her employer

Age-friendly Employer: FSCS

Sheila Blake

Lifelong Learner

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Sheila Blake

Current role: Facilities Management Assistant and Receptionist
Age at time of interview: 59
Time at FSCS: 13 years, 6 months

Sheila is often the first point of contact for visitors and callers to the FSCS. She believes the FSCS’ work is important because it helps people at a critical moment. Recently, Sheila has enjoyed mentoring teenage girls via the Compass project. She’s a keen baker and the whole office benefits from her cake-making skills.

My role at the FSCS is varied and I meet many different individuals every day. When I’m not on reception, I help cover our facilities department. I look after any refreshments that teams in-house have booked from hospitality. On any given day, I could be issuing passes to maintenance contractors or giving health and safety inductions. Being older and being experienced helps me switch between a wide variety of roles without any bother.

Helping callers – including those in extreme circumstances

Some people phone us thinking they've phoned their bank because the FSCS's details appear on their paperwork. There are times when I've gone online to find a telephone number for a 90-year-old caller who doesn't have the means to find it out easily on their own. I’ve even spoken to a member of the public whose financial situation had left him thinking of suicide. After 20 minutes on the phone, he said, “Thank you very much. I feel much happier now.” That's when you realise how much our service can help people.

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How the FSCS supports older workers with training and mentoring

We're very fortunate that the FSCS continues to invest in you as you get older – they certainly look after you here. I participated in the FSCS's ‘Making the Most of Midlife’ programme which helped me sort out my finances and look at planning for later life.

The FSCS also encouraged me, then supported me, to become a volunteer mentor for the Compass project, an initiative run by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. It allowed me to help teenage girls from difficult backgrounds aspire to succeed in life. Many want to become lawyers and solicitors but don't know how to find the route to do this.

I was there to help these young women to find a path they could take to embark on the career of their choice. Although we were ultimately helping them, the whole process was also incredibly fulfilling for me. When my manager asked if I would like to do it again, I jumped at the chance!

Destination Colombia?

If I were going to take a sabbatical, I would go to Colombia to help people. My children's father is from Colombia, and I would like to spend some time with people who are not as well off as I am. My biggest hurdle is my lack of Spanish. I can understand the language but don’t speak it well. My children grew up with me speaking to them in English and their father talking to them in Spanish. I chose not to attempt to speak to them in Spanish because I didn't want them hearing it all wrong. One of my future goals is to learn the language.

Sheila’s cakes bring joy to the office

In the meantime, my biggest passion is baking. If I'm bored, annoyed, or just want some ‘me’ time, I'll bake. I love making cakes, but I also enjoy baking sausage rolls with chorizo. Both are very popular here at the FSCS offices. Let's just say I've been known to bring in a lot of homemade cakes (I think my record was 11) to charity mornings we've held – and they seem to go very quickly.

What's Great About The FSCS?

We help people at a critical moment

I like the fact that we can help people who have got to the point where they are really desperate because they haven't got their money. I also like that everybody here plays a part. Whether they deal directly with the customer or not, their work is vitally important.

My job has so much variety

I enjoy working at the FSCS because of the breadth of tasks my job entails. I greet visitors, take phone calls on the switchboard, check hospitality has completed refreshment orders, and liaise with maintenance contractors. I also cover the facilities department by issuing passes and doing health and safety inductions. Oh, and I’ve just trained to be a mentor. I’m encouraged to keep adding to my skillset so there’s never a dull moment!

The FSCS helped me become a mentor

I really enjoyed being a mentor for the Compass project and am proud I was part of it. I’m so happy that I did it and am very grateful to the FSCS and my manager for giving me that opportunity. I’m also happy to work in an environment where they value mentoring and encourage people to step out of their comfort zone.

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“You should push yourself to do new things, even if you’re not sure about it. It may surprise you that it’s easier than you think”

Sheila Blake
Facilities Management Assistant and Receptionist, FSCS

Sheila's career journey

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Sheila's advice to others

Take a risk, try something new

I think you should push yourself to do things that you're not sure that you want to do. You must try new things, you can't just settle for doing one thing all the time. It's not good for you and it doesn't help you grow.

Two heads (older and younger) are better than one

Businesses shouldn't forget that older workers bring a wealth of experience to an organisation. We might not think the same way as the younger generation, but by combining the thoughts of people of different ages, you can often come up with a much better result.

Be patient with older workers

My advice to businesses wanting to attract and retain an older workforce is to have patience. Older workers may be a little slower than younger people at certain tasks, but give us a little time, show us the way, and we can surprise you.

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Going for walks in the countryside, reading, helping with the village fetes, baking for charity. Would like to travel to Columbia.

Just some of Sheila’s interests and side hustles

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