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Why East Anglia’s top performers are going back to the classroom

PUBLISHED: 14:35 20 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:33 20 November 2018

Degree apprenticeships act as a helping hand/enabler that allow businesses to more easily engage with providers  Picture: Jake Peet/UEA

Degree apprenticeships act as a helping hand/enabler that allow businesses to more easily engage with providers Picture: Jake Peet/UEA

SPIKYJUMPER

Even the brightest and best trained people can benefit from upskilling in new and highly relevant disciplines.

Julian Campbell, UEA Business School  Picture: ContributedJulian Campbell, UEA Business School Picture: Contributed

In our world, surgeons and scientists are often held up as the acme of professional achievement. We’ve all heard the phrases: “It’s not rocket science” and “I’m no brain surgeon, but…”

So it might come as a surprise to learn that, in Norfolk at least, some of the highest performers in health, administration and business are going back to the classroom to upskill in new areas through UEA’s Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship programme.

Dr Priya Muthukumar, for example, a consultant neonatologist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), is currently studying part-time towards a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) through its Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship programme.

She says: “Having been an NHS doctor for the past 16 years and watching the phenomenal reorganisation of NHS in the last few years, I was always keen to do an MBA as I believe that senior clinicians must take on leadership roles and be part of NHS management team to ensure the efficiency and continued sustenance of the service.”

Anton Bull, director of business services at Norwich City Council with 26 years’ experience in local councils, adds: “For some time I’ve wanted to study for an MBA and continue my journey of lifelong learning.”

The first cohort of the Norwich Business School at UEA’s Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship programme began in February and was drawn exclusively from the healthcare sector.

“The NNUH took a leadership role here in the local healthcare sector and worked with UEA to identify the critical strategic management issues within the NHS,” says Julian Campbell, the university’s MBA programme director.

Many healthcare managers have progressed from clinical specialisms to managerial roles without formally developing the necessary skills, so UEA worked with the NNUH to design a programme to meet the needs of existing managers, as well as those with the ambition to increase their skillset and progress their career.

Jeremy Over, director of workforce at the NNUH, said: “The UEA Executive MBA apprenticeship is a great opportunity for those working in senior management roles, both clinical and non-clinical, to enhance their management, leadership and business skills.

“Staff work as part of a multidisciplinary team and so role responsibilities are often broad and complex and this qualification is an innovative way to enhance the necessary skills our staff need to do their job effectively.

“One of our strategic objectives is to be a provider of high quality healthcare to our local population. The feedback from staff on the programme has been unanimous in that the MBA has immediately helped them to think more strategically about the services they offer, and given them the confidence to effect change within their teams, which will benefit our patients.”

These challenges also apply to other sectors, and the second cohort on the Senior Leader apprenticeship programme, who began in September, was drawn from a much more diverse range of businesses and organisations.

Mr Campbell says: “With the introduction of degree apprenticeships we have seen a higher number of employers engaged with training senior leaders in their organisations, and with greater numbers of delegates on programme we have seen an increased diversity within the cohort.

“This has meant that tutors have had to look at the course materials and the way that they are teaching to ensure that all content is applicable for employees from a wide range of sectors and companies, from large organisations to SMEs.”

He says the core teachings of leadership can be applied across many different sectors to help employees in various management roles, and the most recent cohort is made up of apprentices from employers including Adnams, Siemens, Pruce Newman, Aviva, Capita and more. The versatility of the course means that it is appealing to many different organisations.

“Where we have seen clusters from specific sectors, as we had with the NHS for our first cohort, we have worked together with the employer to produce bespoke content, which includes specific teaching modules for NHS apprentices,” adds Mr Campbell.

“We are currently in talks with groups from the financial, education and engineering sectors about the possibilities for creating bespoke content specific to their potential apprentices’ needs, and we hope to be able to do more of this in the future as the programme grows.”

The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy by the government last year, which requires a spend of 0.5pc of the payroll by firms paying more than £3m a year in salaries, has encouraged more businesses to engage with providers such as UEA.

The catch is that businesses are allowed 24 months to spend their funds before they expire and March 2019 will mark 24 months since the levy was introduced. Under government rules any unspent levy from March 2017 will be lost on a rolling monthly programme, decreasing the funds in the employer’s levy pot. So businesses should act now or risk losing out.

UEA currently offers four approved degree apprenticeship programmes including the Norwich Business School’s Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship (see panel on facing page, far right). The university is also working to develop further programmes and is keen to talk to employers about their needs.

For further information, visit www.uea.ac.uk/business/cpd-training/degree-apprenticeships, email apprenticeships@uea.ac.uk or call 01603 591484.

Case study: Anton Bull, Norwich City Council

Why were you interested in undertaking a degree apprenticeship?

For some time I’ve wanted to study for an MBA and continue my journey of lifelong learning. The degree apprenticeship offered the optimum combination of study balanced with maintaining a full-time job. The apprenticeship route also allows my employer to make best use of the levy payments. The Norwich Business School at the UEA has a great reputation so the opportunity to study there was an obvious choice.

What were your expectations of what the degree apprenticeship was going to be like?

I knew it was going to be tough. I’ve spoken to other people who have completed programmes part-time and the open evening, interview and induction day all confirmed it’s not for the faint-hearted! But you only ever get out what you put in.

There’s some juggling to be done, but I knew I had the support of my employer and family to make this work. I was looking forward to working with a group from a wide variety of backgrounds and two months in to the course my expectations have been exceeded.

What skills and experiences do you hope to gain from the programme?

I want to be able to look at things in new ways armed with the skills that the MBA will give me. I want to be able to analyse situations armed with tools and techniques that drive good business decisions. The experience for me is all about the people I am studying with and the previous experiences that the lecturers bring in to the room.

How do you think undertaking the Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship will help you in your current job role?

It already is! I am already applying my learning to how I approach things in my role. I find myself asking questions I didn’t ask before. Some of it will be confidence in the areas where I will have a deeper understanding of the topic and being able to apply the learning in real life situations. I am part of an awesome city and an amazing council and I know the MBA will help me deliver results.

How is it going so far?

It feels great so far, but it’s early days and I am nervous about exams and assessment! I’m thoroughly enjoying the course, the lecturing style and working with a group from such different backgrounds.

What are you enjoying about studying at UEA?

The support has been brilliant. There is a real understanding of the balance between work and study. There is a real pace to the learning but depth as well.

Case study: Dr Priya Muthukumar, NHS

Why were you interested in undertaking a degree apprenticeship?

Having been an NHS doctor for the past 16 years and watching the phenomenal reorganisation of NHS in the last few years, I was always keen to do an MBA as I believe that senior clinicians must take on leadership roles and be part of the NHS management team to ensure the efficiency and continued sustenance of the NHS. This, tied in with the offer of a degree apprenticeship by my employer, which provided a good support system to pursue an MBA without significantly affecting my clinical work. I believe that providing degree apprenticeships is a win-win situation for both the organisation and the employee, and employees value the opportunity provided, thereby enhancing their commitment to the organisation.

How do you think undertaking the Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship will help you in your current job role?

Eight months into the course, I already feel that my engagement in management meetings has improved and I can actually understand the management jargon! The operations and change management module that I have undertaken so far has helped me to complete unfinished operational programmes successfully, and I am hoping the forthcoming modules will enable me to structuralise the future plans and ambitions of the organisation.

What skills and experiences do you hope to gain from the programme?

I fully understand that leaders are not created just by completing an MBA. More than learning subjects that I have never studied before like accountancy and economics, I am looking forward to the interaction with the module instructors and learning practical solutions to the everyday leadership issues that we face in the real world. I am hoping to learn how to effectively produce business case reports and present with confidence, something I understand I will be doing in some of my future modules. There is an immense wealth of knowledge waiting to be gained from the spread of our cohort that varies from the health sector; from international students, to private sector directors of small to big businesses.

What were your initial expectations of what the degree apprenticeship was going to be like, and has it met these expectations?

Going through the UEA website, attending the open evening and discussing with the course director, I was very excited and was looking forward to the challenge of entering into a whole new world of many unknowns. I expected that it would be a challenge to fit a full-time job and family life, with an extremely busy 10-year-old daughter’s schedule, into what seemed to be a long course.

The course is indeed tiring, and involves hours of study and preparation for assignments, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the support and flexibility that has been provided. The tutors fully understand our other lives, and they meet all reasonable adjustments requested. It is definitely worth the effort, I already feel confident in engaging in discussions about topics that I had never heard of before. I am really pleased that I undertook this course.

What are you enjoying about studying at UEA?

I very much look forward to the Wednesday evenings and the weekend classes. There is a strong sense of community feel and everyone looks after each other. I enjoy the banter and lively interactions within and outside of lecture halls. The course has introduced me to new friends who I am sure I will continue to be in touch with long after the course is over. Going back to university and meeting full time students certainly makes me feel young and happy again.

Current UEA Degree Apprenticeship Programmes

Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship

Organisations can use their Apprenticeship Levy funds to cover the course fees of an Executive MBA for employees if undertaken as part of the Senior Leader Apprenticeship programme.

Studying for the UEA Executive MBA fulfils part of the requirements of the new Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship developed by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) with leading employers. Students will complete the Apprenticeship programme, qualify with an MBA and have the option to achieve further professional recognition as a Chartered Manager or Chartered Fellow of the CMI.

Contact the MBA team at mbateam@uea.ac.uk or call 
01603 591753.

Advanced Clinical Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship

The Advanced Professional Practice programme welcomes applications from all healthcare professionals including nurses, midwives, pharmacists, paramedics and allied health professionals who are keen to progress their career to an advanced level of practice.

Contact programme director David Shepherd at david.shepherd@uea.ac.uk or call 
01603 597066.

Adult Nursing Degree Apprenticeship

The Adult Nursing Degree Apprenticeship programme (NDA) offers the opportunity to gain an honours degree and professional registration whilst working in healthcare. Apprentices undertake the same theoretical learning and practice placements as undergraduate students, while being in paid employment.

Contact course director Coral Drane at coral.drane@uea.ac.uk or call 01603 597633.

Nursing Associate Higher Apprenticeship

The Nursing Associate Higher Apprenticeship will provide rigorous training combined with assessment tailored to the apprentice’s clinical area that will develop a deep understanding of the relationship between theory and practice.

Working closely with practice partners, UEA is currently developing an exciting, flexible and innovative approach to a Nursing Associate apprenticeship programme with delivery tailored to employer and apprentice needs.

Contact course director Gareth Partington at G.Partington@uea.ac.uk or call 01603 597046.

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