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Hayley Lord

Boldon, UK

MBA Senior Leader Apprenticeship

Hayley Lord took on the MBA Senior Leader Apprenticeship as she was keen to develop her management and leadership skills for both her own benefit and that of her employer. The apprenticeship has been instrumental in enhancing her own leadership style, and as a result, has been able to successfully lead her team through an Ofsted inspection and get involved in projects at a more senior level. She’s now taking her studying even further by pursuing a PhD at Sunderland.

I currently work as an employment and skills manager for South Tyneside Council. I’m responsible for managing the Quality Assurance functions of a £6 million ESFA contract across 25 sub-contracted partners, and we deliver adult education and skills provision to around 2,500 learners every academic year. I manage a team of quality assurers who undertake QA activities aligned to the Ofsted Education Inspection Framework.

I was catapulted into senior leadership directly from university, starting my own company, which meant that my managerial ability was very much self-taught. I progressed onto a Leadership Development Programme at the council which made me realise that I could make improvements in my leadership style. After completing this, I was introduced to the MBA Senior Leader Apprenticeship at the University of Sunderland. The course content appealed to me, and I was keen to be exposed to like-minded managers to gain insight into how other organisations lead.

Every part of the apprenticeship has served as a jigsaw piece in my understanding of senior leadership and seeing that come together whilst writing my dissertation was very much a lightbulb moment. I could see my leadership style develop and I was taught how to undertake research effectively to improve my organisation and undergo structured change and innovation.

I was strict with putting time aside to progress through my apprenticeship, and my employer was extremely accommodating of this, ensuring I wasn’t overwhelmed. I constantly brought back my learning into the team, so that they’d have more appreciation of the time I was taking out to study and the positive impact it was having on the way we operate.

I found it difficult to accept, at the start of the apprenticeship, that I wasn’t achieving high grades. I approached my programme leader to ask for advice, who explained that the whole point of an apprenticeship is to continually improve. I received a phenomenal level of support from staff on the course, who went above and beyond to see us succeed. I always asked for constructive feedback after each submission, which the tutors provided, helping me improve my grades and shaping how I approached tasks. I now have the tools required to excel and I’m graduating with the ability to think and operate as a senior leader.

In terms of how the apprenticeship has positively impacted on my organisation – the list is endless! It’s revolutionised not only the way I operate, but also my team. I’ve learned what my leadership style is and how best to interact with team members; how to generate a meaningful overarching strategy; how to performance manage by creating KPIs and using transformational leadership techniques; creating frameworks for all processes; and, most importantly, how to manage change effectively. We were recently inspected by Ofsted, and as a first time Ofsted nominee, this was a daunting prospect. The apprenticeship taught me how to deal with this, presenting evidence confidently and backing up approaches with grounded theory and management models. We’re extremely pleased with the findings of the inspection, and I was congratulated on my approach. Had I not been on the course, I feel that the outcome may not have been so positive, so it’s been incredibly valuable to my organisation.

Since graduating, and as a direct result of the exposure the Ofsted inspection has provided, I’ve been invited to participate in projects at a senior level. I’ve been encouraged to support the transformation project the council is undertaking, operating on the commercial strategy element. I’ve also been used as a case study within my organisation, speaking at key events with requests from employees that I mentor them through their own apprenticeship journey. I’ve recently been nominated for the ‘Employee of the Year’ award, with my team also being nominated for ‘Team of the Year’.

I’ve recently been successful in securing a PhD at the University. The apprenticeship ignited a hunger for learning in me that I’ve not had since school, and I feel that the PhD will expose me to key research within my field and a wealth of other opportunities. Progressing with my education is allowing me to give back to my organisation while I continue to improve, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity that the council has provided. I hope to act as a positive role model for future apprentices.

My advice to anyone thinking of an apprenticeship would be to explore all opportunities, as you have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. There are plenty of people to talk to about your prospective studies to ensure you maximise your chances of success. It’s been a life changing experience for me, transforming the way I think, operate, and perform. The MBA Senior Leader Apprenticeship is a progressive and aspirational course offering a real chance for career development and the tools to achieve success.”

Published 18 March 2024

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