Sharon Harrison, Area manager for Aspire

Meet Sharon Harrison, Area Manager for Aspire

I started as Area Manager with Aspire Young Men’s Project on 11th January 2021 and have been on a steep learning curve ever since!

I initially joined PBNI on 3rd December 2012, working as a freshly newly qualified social worker having had a bit of a mid-life crisis and deciding to move careers from being a supervisor for 12 years of a team of 26 staff in a clinical trials company, to applying to Queen’s and doing my degree in Social Work.

In 2012, I started with the Young People’s team in PBNI (PYOP) based in Headquarters in Belfast but unfortunately was only on a fixed term contract until the end of March 2014. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the young people and when the sad time came to leave PBNI, I gained employment as a residential social worker in Glenmona Children’s home in West Belfast working in a different role with the very same young people I had worked with in PBNI.

I was later offered a post within the Southern Trust and subsequently moved to the Rural Family Intervention Team in Armagh where I worked for just over 3 years. However, I always told myself I would return to PBNI one day where my passion lay working within criminal justice.

In December 2017, I made the daunting decision to leave a permanent post in the Trust and in January 2018, I returned to work for PBNI in PDU in HMP Maghaberry as an agency worker. I thoroughly enjoyed working in the prison team and made some great friends in a very short space of time. However, my agency contract was ending in March that year but fortunately, I was offered a post with the West Belfast team and jumped at the chance. West Belfast became the biggest learning of my career to date, where I gained so much not only in learning; but also in friendship; from both the team and my area manager.

In July 2018, I became a permanent member of staff and in September 2020, I decided I would apply for the post of area manager with no great expectations of even getting an interview and telling only a select few that I had applied.

My passion for working with young people has been pivotal throughout my career and when I was offered the post of area manager with Aspire Young Men’s Project, to say I was delighted would be an understatement! Since taking up my post, I have been very privileged in that I have such a dedicated and committed team of Probation Officers, Probation Service Officers, Psychology staff and administrative staff who all have the same aspirations and hopes for the young people that we work with.

I have to admit; it has not been an easy few months, working through the challenges and restrictions of Covid-19 and trying to adjust to my new role. However, I must give credit to my team and all the area managers, who have given me so much support including my direct line manager who manages to keep me sane. I have been so overwhelmed with the help and support they have offered.

Thankfully, we have been awarded our funding from the Department of Justice until March 2022 which is vital to the work PBNI and our collaborative partners do with these marginalized young men and I look forward to everything the next 12 months bring.