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My Apprenticeship Journey – Claire Shapcott

For some people, taking an apprenticeship is the beginning of their working life, but for others apprenticeships are a ladder to help them progress in their career.

There are many levels of apprenticeship available, ranging from basic skills to degree level knowledge, in a huge array of job roles.

As the South-West’s specialist training network, Swatpro training partners have years of experience of helping employers and employees chose the right path for them, making the admin manageable and delivering high quality, custom-designed training and assessment.

Claire Shapcott, who works at Sidmouth’s Donkey Sanctuary, knows all about the Swatpro approach and has had great success in using it to help her career and develop new skills. She has been with the organisation, one of Europe’s largest equine charities, for 21 years, and after completing a Level 4 Business and Administration Apprenticeship, has now progressed to undertake a Level 5 Operations/Departmental Manager Apprenticeship. We asked Claire why she started her apprenticeship:

“I was regretful that I didn’t go to university and get a degree when I left school. Now that I am in my 40s, my aspirations in life have changed, but many roles now require applicants to be educated to degree level and so I wanted to improve my chances of moving up the career ladder.”

Asked about the challenges of training, Claire said: “I was worried about going back to study as an adult, it was so long since I had written coursework or taken an exam. My college tutor was amazing she put me at ease, she explained everything very clearly and was never judgmental if I had misunderstood something, she just steered me in the right direction and gave me encouragement. When I was at school, we didn’t have an IT GCSE and so I had to sit the equivalent to complete my apprenticeship, I was so nervous about the Excel part but my tutor gave me so many practice exams, and my manager was great about giving me extra time to study. I am happy to say I passed first time!

“At first I was apprehensive about how I would manage to get all of my daily role requirements in alongside study time. But with careful diary management and realising that some of my normal meetings such as 1:1’s and staff/team meetings, webinars and mandatory LMS courses (such as GDPR/Manual Handling etc) all counted towards my training hours, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. And there was no pressure from my
college tutor, if I hadn’t managed to get everything done, we carried it over to the next month, and if I had a busy period at work coming up, she would set my tasks accordingly.

“My manager sat down with me and looked at how we were going to make time for my studies that fitted in with the demands of my role and the rest of the team. I worked from home on a Monday to allow uninterrupted study time. She was really supportive and encouraging about my study time and helping me to complete my apprenticeship.”

So, what benefits does Claire think an apprenticeship confers, and would she recommend it to others?

“The benefit for me was that I could study in work time and gain a free, nationally recognised qualification that I couldn’t afford to do myself. A degree via Open University wasn’t an option for me, and I wouldn’t have had time to study with my busy home life and a full-time job either. The benefits to the organisation are that I can apply everything I learned in my study, to my day-to-day role, share my new knowledge and skills with others, and I feel happier and more fulfilled at work because of my achievements.

I am hugely grateful to the organisation and the Learning & Development team for giving me this opportunity. This apprenticeship opened the door to a new job role for me, the skills and knowledge I gained from doing a higher apprenticeship, helped me to move into my current role as a Learning and Development Specialist, and managing the levy pot and promoting and marketing apprenticeships internally are now part of my day-to-day role, which I love!

“I enjoyed my Level 4 experience so much that I have gone onto enrol for a Level 5 Leadership and Management apprenticeship - which I didn’t think was achievable for me as I wasn’t a manager, but after talking the framework requirements through with my college tutor and manager, we found that I could do some of it on projects not just people management – so where there is a will there is a way.

“I am so lucky to have recently started an amazing new role which allowed me to gain my Strengths Profiling accreditation and soon I will begin an ILM Level 5 in Coaching and Mentoring course, which both go hand in hand with my current apprenticeship, and all of my study time for those two qualifications counts towards my learning hours log. So, my aim is to get qualified and ace it in my new role, complete my Level 5 apprenticeship, and then who knows? If I want to keep learning the sky is the limit for me right now. I would recommend the apprenticeship route to anyone who wants to gain further qualifications later in life – it’s never too late to achieve your dreams.”

My Apprenticeship Journey – Claire Shapcott