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Degree Apprenticeships

Jess, Senior People Professional Apprenticeship

Tell us about your role within the company you work for and what it involves.  How does it relate to the degree apprenticeship? 

I am the Head of HR and Training for Somerset Passenger Solutions. We are responsible for transporting the majority of the workforce to Hinkley Point C – the largest construction project in Europe.

I work with the People Director to implement the People Strategy and lead the HR team to ensure all people policies and processes are in place and in line with the needs of the business. I am also accountable for all Training activities across the business from Driver Training to Operational and Leadership courses for the management team.

How have you found balancing study for the apprenticeship, but also having a busy working life – any hints and tips?

My role is incredibly busy, we work in a massively fast paced environment and we don’t get time to take a breath sometimes. Balancing work, home and the apprenticeship is tough but I am finding ways to make the best use of my time and study more efficiently. It is very much a work in progress…

Can you give an example of how the knowledge gained from your DA has directly benefited the company / organisation you are working with - a project you are working on, or exciting changes at your workplace where you have applied your knowledge and skills?

This is difficult to quantify at the moment as I am on my first module, however as that module is HR Strategy and Context and we are just finalising our strategy at SPS, I am learning some useful tips on how to implement HR Strategy and link it into the corporate strategy. Luckily for me, we are an incredibly people-focused business, so it is easy to align the work we are doing. Looking forward to the rest of the programme there are some exciting modules coming up which I am keen to adapt into action at SPS. Resourcing and Talent Development is the one I am most looking forward to, in terms of being able to directly impact the work I am doing; however Working in Practice and Employment Law are going to be the really interesting ones for me personally.

How has studying for a Degree Apprenticeship benefited your future career? Has it opened new doors or progression for you?

For me, the apprenticeship is about learning the theory behind the practice and helping me to contextualise the background to what I have done for the last 15 years. I spent 27 years in retail, starting in very operational roles before moving into HR later on. My experience of having experience of both has been key to my HR career and the academic part is an extension of this. My main aim in doing this Apprenticeship is to help me to translate the knowledge and skills into successful delivery in great process within SPS but I am also looking forward to specific modules within the programme that could strengthen my knowledge and help me if I decided to move away from a generalist role and into a more specialised area.

A Degree Apprenticeship can benefit more than just the apprentice, providing opportunities for others in the company to step up. Have you seen any positive developments in your team as well as in yourself?

Definitely, I am incredibly lucky to have a loyal and dedicated team who are all capable of taking on more, so it is a great opportunity to hand some things over while I concentrate on key strategic projects which I am able to link to the programme. In addition to this, I have been able to test our own Apprentices on how they complete their OneFile portfolios.

What would you say were the benefits of doing an apprenticeship in comparison to returning to full-time education?

The opportunity to carry on working and earning money while gaining a qualification is the obvious benefit, with a family, there is no way I would be able to give up working to study full-time. But in addition to this, it is the ability to directly translate what I am learning through the programme straight into practice in the workplace.

What has your experience of studying a Degree Apprenticeship with Exeter been like?

It has been great; we had a fantastic induction programme where we were made to feel relaxed and supported. In addition to this, everyone I have had contact with has been incredibly committed to my success and there has clearly been a great deal of work go into this programme.

How important are the roles of workplace mentor and academic mentor for you as an apprentice?

Very important, this is such a huge investment in time and energy, so it is really important that my workplace mentor can see the benefit of this programme to the business and my progression. My academic mentor has been assuring me that I am not wildly out of my depth and this has been incredibly helpful.

Would you recommend Exeter to other students thinking of taking part in Degree Apprenticeships?

Yes, definitely. I have found it to be a really positive experience and one I would definitely recommend.