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Apprenticeship Workforce Development Programme: In conversation with participant Laura Guest 

Laura Guest, Curriculum Improvement Lead

Curriculum Improvement Lead, Laura Guest, became interested in education when she completed her own Level 3 apprenticeship whilst working in the Health and Social Care sector. Now she works for a training provider that specialises in apprenticeships and has been using the 51ԹϹ’s free Apprenticeship Workforce Development (AWD) programme to help with onboarding.  

Funded by the Department for Education (DfE), the Apprenticeship Workforce Development programme is being delivered by 51ԹϹ (51ԹϹ) in partnership with the Association of Colleges (AoC), Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), Strategic Development Network (SDN) and the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) and supported by SQW as an independent evaluator.

What AWD course have you completed and how did you find it? 

I went on the ‘Getting Off to a Good Start – Effective Onboarding for Managers’ course. There was one for trainers as well, but I did the managers one.  

It was really good. I think with external training you never know what you’re going to get when you attend, and particularly with breakout rooms – you can get in them and there’s very little conversation, which is awkward. But the way the host facilitated the breakouts on this course worked very well, everyone was contributing and engaged in the discussions. I felt that the host was passionate about the subject she was delivering, which helped massively, and all of the activities were current, the content was relevant, so the whole course was great. 

What did you learn? 

I took away a key quote, ‘the noise that poor onboarding causes detracts from the learning journey’ and that really helped me to think about getting it right from the off. We explored about the employer input in the onboarding process, with the focus being on the learner experience, looking at onboarding being more of a probationary period, not just a tick box exercise. It helped me to see that onboarding is an ongoing process and it doesn’t just stop at day 42. 

Anything else? 

The course included access to a learning portal where we could make notes in a workbook and start an action plan. That was very helpful.  

Have you been able to apply your learning from the course? 

Yes, I’ve been working on a few things as a result of the course. I’ve started putting together a one-page document for learners to have a visual of what happens and when, so that every apprentice has the same information at the same stage. In addition, I’m working on our learner handbook, so that it’s up to date and the information is not all crammed in. 

We’ve also introduced a ‘mum’ type role, which is an idea that came out of the session from discussion with other providers. The idea is to have that kind of neutral person who contacts each apprentice at different stages to make sure that they know what’s upcoming, that they’re prepared and that they’ve done what they need to. That is working well. We haven’t got impact data yet, but we’re getting feedback through surveys that suggests it’s useful to apprentices to have that neutral person to contact.  

How did you go from being an apprentice in Health and Social Care to being a tutor? 

I started out working with the elderly and those with learning disabilities and enrolled onto a Level 3 apprenticeship. It gave me an appetite for education and training. I spoke to my assessor, and she encouraged me and gave me confidence to pursue my interest. As a result, I qualified into a tutor role in a training provider. I joined Acacia Training in 2017 and was promoted into a management role in 2020. I’ve continued to learn and gain different qualifications and I’m now enrolled on another apprenticeship, this time at Level 5. 

Why have you started a second apprenticeship? 

Our Director of Education wanted to start delivering an Operational Management Level 5 apprenticeship and she asked who would be interested in piloting it. To have a formal qualification to help me really improve my leadership and management is something that I’ve wanted for a while because, when I moved into a line manager role, it was during Covid and training was restricted at the time. When this opportunity came up, I thought it was ideal that I could learn where I’m currently working, and it will help me improve in my role by learning the theory as well as the practice. 

Are you finding your apprenticeship is very different this time? 

Yes, it’s totally different from my previous apprenticeship. I was a tutor by the time the apprenticeship reforms came in and we were worried about the changes. It’s been hard, but I do think the new apprenticeships are better.  

What do you think is special about apprenticeships? 

Whilst online or classroom-based learning works well for those who are used to learning, if you’re working at a relatively new job, I feel apprenticeships are crucial for helping develop skills and behaviours. Also, the learning is usually on a one-to-one basis and having someone coach you over an extended period of time one to one is very powerful.  

What would you say to someone considering an apprenticeship? 

Do it, don’t doubt yourself. For me, I didn’t like formal education, didn’t do well at school, didn’t want to go to university and didn’t like that classroom-based learning. With an apprenticeship you can do it alongside your work, and you’ve got the practical element to cement your learning. For those, like me, who prefer that type of learning style, apprenticeships are ideal. 

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