Find opportunities that work for you...
“I currently work for HMCTS as the senior legal manager (SLM) for people in Norfolk and Suffolk. At the time I decided to apply for the leadership apprenticeship I was an interim senior legal manager for people in Surrey and Sussex and during my apprenticeship I became the permanent SLM. My leadership apprenticeship went hand in hand with completing a MBA and it was in fact the MBA that first attracted me to apply as I thought this would be an attractive qualification to have. Also, on a personal note my son was leaving for university and this meant it would be a good time to take on new commitments as I would have the time to fully commit and avoid the dreaded empty nest dilemma. I did wonder if I had been out of education too long to be able to complete an intensive course but felt the opportunity was too good to miss.
The MBA and apprenticeship were fully taught online. The main obstacle was getting the information from Coventry University as to dates and timetables. My diary is always pretty full and so last minute commitments are challenging. After some effort from our cohort we did manage to get the timetable and my line manager was extremely supportive in allowing me to attend the online lectures and making sure I got the 20% on the job training I needed to complete the course. Some of the modules you need to cover are difficult to evidence depending on your role, so for me finance was an issue as this isn’t really a part of my current role and I needed to think outside the box to get the examples I needed. This involved volunteering for projects outside my comfort zone and either shadowing or covering meetings for those at higher grades or in different departments in order to gain experience. Completing the apprenticeship has opened a number of doors for me and I have recently taken on the lead learning and development role in leadership for the legal team nationally. I am really looking forward to giving something back and being able to use what I learned to help others gain experience and skills.
The opportunity to shadow and cover others in itself was a real positive and allowed me insight into the various departments and levels of management in HMCTS. It gave me the opportunity to meet new colleagues and I gained a very valuable contact list which I use in my current role and in projects I am working on. It was also great to meet and work with my cohort. We really supported each other and were able to share issues and think of solutions to make sure we all got through the course. There were some issues with the course providers and as a group we successfully raised them and in the main they were resolved, this added to the atmosphere of all being in it together. Although we wanted to get good marks, there was no negative rivalry and if members of the cohort were struggling there was always someone available to help explain.
Some of the work is group work with a group mark, this is always challenging as it is difficult to get everyone together and individuals have differing levels of commitment and interest. I was lucky though and ended up with great groups, we all had different skills and competencies that we could add to the project work. I was really pleased to get a distinction in my MBA and a merit in my apprenticeship. Some of the modules were completely unfamiliar to me and I hadn’t completed any studying or course work for 18 years. I did find that exercising my brain in a different way enhanced my memory and ability to problem solve in my working role.
An advantage of everything being online is that you have the recordings to look back on and links to online materials and information on texts that are useful to cover a whole range of topics, from risk assessment to success profiling. This means you have at hand a wealth of information that you can look back on and use in your current role. I have presented some of the materials at team meetings and been able to share what I have learnt. I am involved in the legal team manager development programme, completing the apprenticeship has really helped with this.
Completing the apprenticeship has increased my profile within HMCTS and there are often familiar faces now when I attend meetings and am involved in projects. It enhances confidence to be able to express opinions, have a voice and have the courage to share new ideas with others and look at different solutions to those which otherwise may not have been considered.
One of the skills you learn is evidence gathering and being able to produce a portfolio, this has been really useful in my current role as we have a number of trainees who struggle to evidence their competencies and present them in an easy to understand format. I have definitely encouraged them to keep and log evidence as they go along to save a mammoth task at the end of their training, and also it is good for morale as you get to check on what you have learnt and achieved over time.
Time management is also a skill that is needed. Although 20% off the job is guaranteed by your employer, in reality your workload remains the same, you have to become efficient at managing your time and diary to make every hour count. Ring fencing study time is important and making sure you take advantage of help offered by colleagues. There are a number of people in my team looking to advance and giving them an opportunity to cover for me, helped me with my time but also provided them with evidence needed to move onto the next level, or enhance their skills in their current role.
I did promote my apprenticeship with others in service – in fact they did start to tease me a little about how much I referred to the modules, there always seemed to be an opportunity for me to say ‘on my apprenticeship we did…’ and share my experience, especially with leadership techniques and also project work. Hopefully, I have encouraged others to look at apprenticeship options. I did the leadership apprenticeship at level 7 which is the highest level but there are lots of different courses and there will be one that is right for everyone.
If you are thinking of undertaking an apprenticeship, I would definitely encourage you, I would just say make sure it is the right time for you as it can be pressurised and although some support is offered in the main you get out what you put in. Also, make sure your manager fully understands the time commitment, on the rare occasion I had to miss the online lectures I found it really difficult to catch up from the recordings and you miss the opportunity to ask questions. I did feel valued at the investment HMCTS had put into developing my skills and it was an opportunity I am glad I took.
Good luck if you do decide to apply for an apprenticeship, I found it really rewarding and although stressful at times, the opportunity to do something different was very positive for me. It was great to do something for myself whilst also improving my skills needed at work. There is a wealth of information on the intranet, which will help you decide what course would work best for you. For some courses you do need minimum qualifications in maths and English, but support and assistance is available for everyone to obtain these if needed and shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to applying for the apprenticeships. You also need basic IT skills for most courses, so find out what is needed and see if there is a course you could attend before starting to make sure you have the confidence and skills required. Having said that, there was also a tech team on hand from my course provider who offered assistance. Don’t be put off if you haven’t done any studying in a while, you soon get used to it and there will be support available.
My top tips would be to firstly decide is the time right? Then to decide which course will benefit you most and importantly be of interest. When the course becomes challenging, having an interest in what you are learning really helps. I’d then speak to people who have done a similar apprenticeship and find out what it is really like. Then check in with your line manager, explain the time commitment and get them on board. Finally, take some time in filling out the application, you don’t want to be disappointed if you don’t get through and places on some of the courses can be competitive!”
Find a Civil Service apprenticeship or sign up for apprenticeships alerts tailored to your skills and experience.
Hear from other current and former Civil Service apprentices who have written blogs for National Apprenticeship Week 2024.