In the midst of a successful and accomplished career, Rachel Newman was on the lookout for something that would support her current role. She wanted something academic that would teach her the theory behind things, balanced with the practical approach of putting her workplace experience into practice.

Rachel is currently completing the PG Dip Business Administration Scale Up Senior Leaders Apprenticeship – Level 7 at Liverpool John Moores University, which will provide a qualification that backs the work that she does in her current role.

Can you share a memorable moment or project from your apprenticeship that had a lasting impact on your professional development?

One of the modules we study in the course is called Business Development. For this module, the tutors took us out over 3 days and we got to meet local businesses and understand how they see business growth and managed to ‘scale up.’ The reality of being in a different setting from the usual university rooms invigorated us all in the class and allowed us to see first-hand how different businesses use different models and scales to grow.

How did your apprenticeship experience contribute to your passion for the apprenticeship sector?

Working for an End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) already, I thought I knew everything about apprenticeships, but there is nothing like living the experience yourself as a bit of a reality check. Not only do I have the perspective of an EPAO, but I also have the outlook of an apprentice currently on the programme. These outlooks have played a big part in how we at Open Awards understand the challenges that face apprentices and training providers and tailor our support to match their needs.

What challenges did you face during your apprenticeship, and how did overcoming them influence your resilience and determination in your career?

As a ‘mature’ apprentice, it has been difficult to balance having a full-time job and two children while completing a degree apprenticeship, especially at such a high level. I’ve had my moments – the breakdowns, the I can’t do this anymore, but I’m nearly at the end now –and, whilst it has been a challenge, I wouldn’t change the experience for the world as the skills I have learnt have been invaluable. My personal development has been phenomenal and I do genuinely feel like a different person in the workplace now.

As a senior leader now, how do you incorporate the lessons learned during your apprenticeship into your leadership style and decision-making?

I try and test different leadership styles. I’ve discovered on my journey that everyone is an individual and not all leadership styles suit every member of staff so you have to be agile. Adaptability is key!

In what ways do you actively support and advocate for apprenticeships within your current role as a senior leader?

At Open Awards, we are an EPAO but we are also an employer. We are full advocates of the apprenticeship route and put staff like myself on apprenticeships whilst also hiring apprenticeship roles.

Reflecting on your entire career journey, how do you see the broader impact of apprenticeships on professional growth and industry innovation?

I think apprenticeships are the future. Back in 1997 when I was in year 6 of primary school, apprenticeships were never discussed as a pathway or career option. Fast forward to 2024, apprenticeships are one of the main routes for both young people and mature learners in the workplace. You are never too old to learn and I would encourage anyone a little bit older who thinks apprenticeships aren’t for them, to think again!

Katy Lennon is our Principal Consultant of Training and Apprenticeship Appointments and a big advocate for apprenticeships across the country.

If you’re looking to recruit leaders into your apprenticeship organisation, get in touch via Linkedin or send her an email.