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Staff development through apprenticeships

Ann Bills
Programme Manager for AAA Screening
Currently completing – Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship Level 6

I am completing the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) with Walsall College and the University of Worcestershire. I enrolled in February 2019 and am just entering my third and final year. I didn’t believe that I would ever be given the chance to study a degree level qualification whilst working full time so was thrilled when I was given this opportunity.

I am the Programme Manager for the Black Country Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening Programme which is an NHS England / Improvement commissioned screening service and is part of the Black Country Vascular Centre based at Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust. AAA Screening is offered to men in the year they turn 65 and the Black Country programme invites around 4500 men each year and also offers surveillance to 280 men who have been found to have an AAA. Clinics are community-based and my service covers Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton. I manage the service and lead a team of Screening Technicians and Administrators. I am also trained as a Screening Technician.

I have a career of over 35 years in the public sector and have managed teams for many of those years. To be able to complete the CMDA has been an opportunity which I greatly appreciate and which will consolidate my career history and skills with a recognised qualification. To be able to study the theory behind leadership and management has been interesting and I have developed my knowledge and put theory in to practice.

I have found that I have developed my skills around self-reflection and self-awareness and this has helped me with leadership skills. On-line resources such as self-assessment tools have given me insight in to what kind of leader and manager I am and how I prefer to learn. Completing 360-degree feedback has also been an interesting and valuable tool. I have quite a collection of leadership and management books now too!

I have faced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic which have had an impact on my time and capacity at work. As a student, I have had to adapt to on-line learning rather than classroom based lectures. Assessments which include presentations have also been delivered on-line which can be quite nerve-wracking when relying on strong internet connections! I have found however that the pandemic has given me a great deal of opportunity to put my learning and theory in to practice and these unprecedented times have enabled me to think more innovatively and given me chances to use project management skills.

Having never studied at this level previously, with a Level 4 Diploma in Business and Administration being my highest qualification, I was unsure how successful I would be with this programme and if I would be adept at writing at this academic level. I have surprised myself and have received fantastic feedback from my tutors. I would like to achieve a first class degree.

I have met some wonderful people who are studying the CMDA with me, from very diverse backgrounds and employers. Working alongside my student peers has been invaluable to my learning and development and I’m sure we will remain friends after we graduate.

Following graduation, I would like to complete a further qualification possibly in coaching and mentoring. I definitely have the bug for higher education and hope I can use my study to further my career path within the NHS.

Mandy Hamilton
COPD Specialist Nursing Team
Completed – Business Administration Level 4 Apprenticeship in 2019

I commenced the NVQ 4 in 2016 after discussing the qualification with my line, gaining her full support. As a mature student it was initially tough going having to recall methods of learning and writing up and referencing. I was nearing 50 and felt I needed to challenge myself and prove to myself I wasn’t too old to learn new tricks.

I work within the COPD Specialist Nursing team where we deliver education and training mainly to Primary Care GP Practices and writing up and designing Treatment Guidelines and Pathways to support Primary and Secondary Care. My role developed from administrative role to administrative, facilitative and coordination, with certain aspects of the roles include managing systems.

I received exceptional support from my tutor at Walsall College, who was always on hand to answer any queries and even supportive when I felt like throwing in the towel. He guided me where needed or gave me tools to find my way.

Unfortunately, midway, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and I needed to defer the course to care for her. Her dying wish was for me to complete and graduate. This gave me the drive and determination to grant this and I managed to complete 6 weeks prior to losing her battle in 2019, so she knew I had passed and finished the course. On Graduation Day I had mixed emotions; proud of my achievements, saddened as my mother was not there to see the end result of the hours and hours of hard work I put into gaining this qualification.

The reason for choosing the Apprenticeship allowed me to continue in my role without interfering in my day to day work, but pick up skills and knowledge that enhanced my role allowing the understanding & reasons behind actions or requests within my daily activities. It gave me opportunities to go behind the scenes within different areas of business administration. It gave me a greater insight to a number areas such as Human Resources and even implications of estate management and what our responsibilities within this area are.

Even though I spent many hours reading and researching each unit and apart from several meltdowns along the way, I actually enjoyed the opportunity of taking time out just for myself away from the normal busy day to day life, to achieve the qualification and graduate at my age!

Currently I haven’t thought of any future challenges due to working in Respiratory and the current climate, pandemic and demands we are all working under. Maybe once we are out the other side – never say never!