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Case Study | Rachel Lees, HR Apprentice

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We sat down with MoneyPlus Learning and Development Manager, Rachel Lees. Rachel is practising what she preaches, as she is currently studying the CIPD Level 7 Senior People Professional qualification with an HR apprenticeship.

So why did you choose to do an apprenticeship?

I always wanted to do my level 7 and qualification with the CIPD and apprenticeship seemed a really great way to access the qualification at minimal cost to my company and also allowing me to implement what I was learning along the way.

How did you find your apprentice opportunity?

Being an L&D Manager, I am in charge of our Apprenticeship Levy and our apprenticeship programs, so I was already in contact with Total People as I had a learner placed by yourselves within my team.

Because of that, I was already in conversation about the Level 7 syllabus, so when the opportunity came up for me to be able to get involved, I jumped at it.

How easy was the application process?

The application process is super-easy. I think that's because I was already engaged with Total People. When it came to actually coordinating the application, I think the only tricky thing was actually trying to navigate everything I had going on at work at the time.

But from a Total People perspective, super-easy.

What kind of skills you are learning?

The kind of skills I'm learning are vast. I think a lot of it is validation of the things that I already do and it's just giving me the confidence and the boost to know that I'm doing the right things and why.

But I’ve learned so many new things too. For example I've never been exposed to employment law before, the OD (organisational development) modules and lots of other topics that I've not really engaged with before as an L&D Manager.

How are you finding the experience of combining work with your study?

Yes, combining work and study is a challenge, especially when you're in a strategic role, which is obviously one of the requirements of a Level 7 qualification!
But it is a real challenge and you can feel like you're falling behind in either one of those two things…so being really intentional about the time you put aside for your study is really key for me.

What are your career goals?

My career goal is to be a Chief People Officer one day. On my first day when I joined this company and I sat down with my CEO and I was like, “I will be on your board one day.”

That is still my ambition and I'm really hopeful that having the Level 7 under my belt will really help me get there.

How is the apprenticeship supporting your career goal?

It’s really making me think on a deeper level. So, whereas before I would maybe present an idea because I thought it was the right thing for the business, now I can present that idea because I think it's the right thing for the business, but also with the appropriate theory and practice behind it. That knowledge makes me feel so much more confident in presenting my ideas to senior stakeholders.

How are your employers supporting you through your apprenticeship?

My employees are great in terms of support; not only do I have my direct line manager and our Head of People as support, but I also have great exposure to our C-suite.

I get to connect with them regularly and they give me feedback and input on my ideas, which then has a direct impact on the work that I'm doing through my apprenticeship.

It's great support all around.

What have been the highlights of your apprenticeship so far?

I think the highlight so far has been the feedback that I get from my Learning Coach. Maybe when it's been a topic that's not naturally landed with me, or something that's not been within my comfort zone or my natural skill set, when I’ve got really great feedback when I didn't think I’d done so great…I think they're the highlights for me.

How have the tutors support you in your learning?

My learning coach is fabulous. I couldn't speak highly enough of her. She is so supportive and not just in the context of the apprenticeship, but she really notices if I'm a little bit out of sorts, if I'm not my usual self. I really feel like my learning coach has taken the time to really get to know Rachel as a person, not just a learner.

Finally, why would you recommend an apprenticeship to someone?

I am a huge advocate of apprenticeships and I recommend them to anyone going. I'm actually in the process of working with a colleague on embedding another apprentice into their team.

The massive benefit with apprentices and apprenticeships is the ability to embed that learning into your role almost immediately. That's the big thing that I always champion.

I think another thing that’s come from the apprenticeship is…previously, I always wondered, was my voice important enough? And did I actually have something to say? But as I've gone through my apprenticeship I’ve realised I've got quite a good steer on topics, a good take on them. So, when I feel like I've got something to say, I've been happy to put my opinion out there.

So I think, yeah, overall I'm just a huge advocate for apprenticeships.

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