Trailblazing degree apprentices start their pioneering programmes.

Posted on 26th September 2016

A trailblazing cohort of degree apprentices have started their journey at the University of Chester – the first group in the UK to take a new and non-traditional approach to gaining a degree by studying in the workplace.

 Front row L-R: Professor Clare Schofield, Rachel Orgill Jones, Emilia Hoyle, Lucy Brown, Lois Jones, Stephanie Grindley, Charlotte Gant, Lisa Rowe. Back Row L-R: Lisa Conway, Jack de Wynter-Smith, Holly Foster-Knight, Mollie Norman, Jessica Day, Ellie Phillips, Joanne Hiles, Peter Ford, Early Careers Manager - Apprentice Programmes, Airbus.
Front row L-R: Professor Clare Schofield, Rachel Orgill Jones, Emilia Hoyle, Lucy Brown, Lois Jones, Stephanie Grindley, Charlotte Gant, Lisa Rowe. Back Row L-R: Lisa Conway, Jack de Wynter-Smith, Holly Foster-Knight, Mollie Norman, Jessica Day, Ellie Phillips, Joanne Hiles, Peter Ford, Early Careers Manager - Apprentice Programmes, Airbus.

Recruited as employees by a range of companies specialising in everything from energy to IT and from manufacturing to textiles, the group will enjoy a specially tailored programme for their workplace which leads to a BA (Hons) degree in Business Management and Leadership - attending the University for 12 days, alongside their job.

The apprenticeship degree has been aligned with the Institute of Leadership and Management professional qualifications, enabling the group to come away with an ILM Diploma at levels 4-6 and achieve Chartered Manager status. This combination gives a unique undergraduate and postgraduate offering in the UK for aspiring managers and leaders called the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship.

Degree apprenticeships were launched by the Government enabling groups of businesses, universities and colleges to develop practical, vocational degree courses which will allow people to combine both the academic study from a traditional university degree and the practical experience and wider employment skills vital for career success.

The University had already worked with Airbus on creating the degree apprenticeship ahead of the government drive for this type of study and has conducted underpinning research which will be presented to the House of Commons with the University Vocational Awards Council.

The University’s first apprentice at Airbus, Catherine Hill, who is an undergraduate Human Resources Apprentice, has just completed her first year. Catherine has recently successfully achieved her ILM certificate.

Catherine said: “The opportunity to study for my degree at Chester Business School, while working for Airbus, has given me a fantastic head start in my career. As well as earning a salary, I will attain a fee-free BA (Hons) Leadership and Management degree from the University of Chester, uniquely also three diplomas with the ILM. The degree is very practical, with just 12 days per year attendance. Through a combination of experiential and academic learning, the programme has given me the opportunity to take a strategic look at different parts of the business, apply business techniques and models, and present bespoke findings to line managers. Additionally, being part of such a successful international company has allowed me to build a diverse network of colleagues and also use my knowledge of various languages with a variety of business stakeholders. This programme presents a wonderful opportunity to expand my knowledge and develop skills and behavioural competencies in pursuit of becoming an HR professional.”

Members of the group gathered together at the University’s Business School, based at the Queen’s Park Campus, for their induction session. Some of the apprentices have been at their companies for some time while others are new in post.

Jack de Wynter-Smith, 19, from Simonsbath in Exmoor and now living in Broughton, Flintshire, who works at Airbus, said: “I took a gap year and was thinking of going to university when I saw this opportunity with Airbus and applied straight away.  I am very excited to be an employee of Airbus.  Getting three years of work experience and a degree with no debt is a no brainer!  I am really interested in aviation and to be in management in this industry is really exciting.”

Rachel Jones, 32, from Bramhall, Cheshire has been with her company EMR (European Metal Recycling) in Warrington for year. She said: “I’m looking forward to getting a qualification and being able to earn money at the same time.”

Starting her role at West of England Textiles Ltd in Chester in October this year, Lucy Brown, 18, from Nantwich, said: “As the business you work for is the focus of your course, I hope studying for this qualification will give me a rounded view of my company and a good knowledge of the business.”

Stephanie Grindley, 23, from Holywell, Flintshire, who is working for PRS Telecom in Mold, said: “I’ve always wanted to do a degree and at 23-years-old this is a great opportunity for me to work, study and grow within the company.”

The Head of Early Careers at Airbus, Gavin Jones, said: "At Airbus we recognise that full-time university is not for everyone, as some learners prefer a more “hands on approach” to education. We view our undergraduate apprenticeships as a very effective alternative method of education that allows us to tailor the learning path of the individual, to give them work experience that underpins their academic studies."

Phillip McEvoy, Operations Director at Argent Oil Terminal in Ellesmere Port, one of the companies involved in the degree apprenticeships, said: “The new degree apprenticeship has given members of my senior management team the chance to gain a formal academic qualification and professional registration credibility without impacting on their ability to carry out their work commitments. This programme is a fantastic way forward for new and aspiring managers to complement their years of experience with academic best practice and learning, which will naturally impact the performance of the business in a positive way. The flexible way the programme is delivered by the University of Chester gives the opportunity for minimal disruption to business operations and provides a fantastic development opportunity to all levels of the organisation. I would recommend this programme to anyone who wants to develop the capability of their team to help the growth of their business.”

Lisa Rowe, Director of Business Engagement and Partnerships at the University of Chester Business School, said: “The programme content was specifically designed in response to employer demand for a more flexible, work-based degree which incorporates highly sought after professional institute qualifications, alongside a BA (Hons) whose content and title can be adapted in partnership with employers to suit different roles, industries and sectors. Assessments can be individually negotiated to specifically put apprentices’ learning into context, resulting in a comprehensive portfolio of evidence that may also be used by employers to enhance performance and benefit a specific business area.”

Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, said: “The University is looking forward to working with our business partners to develop these exciting degree apprenticeships further and to enable those who take part to drive forward the economic success of the city, Cheshire and beyond.”

If you would like to find out more about the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, or about involvement in newly formed ‘trailblazer groups’ (ie. groups of employers who work together to design new apprenticeship standards for occupations within their sectors), please contact Lisa Rowe, Director of Business Engagement and Partnerships lisa.rowe@chester.ac.uk.