Posted by on 05 December 2019


Sam Bailey

Laboratory Manager Sport and Health Sciences
Technical Services
(Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a Laboratory Manager in Sports Science at the University of Exeter. I also studied Sports Science to Masters level at the University and sport is something that I have always loved to do since I was young.

I like football and I am a keen cyclist and enjoy riding in spectacular places like the Alps or anywhere that goes uphill!

What made you decide to do an apprenticeship at the University of Exeter?

I saw the offer of undertaking the Degree Apprenticeship programme through the University weekly news bulletin and thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to make me stand out from the crowd by having another degree with a focus on leadership and management.

Can you give us an idea of a typical day?

Day to day I ensure the functionality of equipment in the Laboratories and teaching sessions are prepared and correctly set up during term time.

I manage a team of technical staff which I direct and instruct on the tasks that are needed to be done each day.

If equipment stops working I either try to fix it myself or arrange to get it serviced and repaired if it is beyond what can be done in house.

I also have responsibility for ensuring the laboratories are kept safe, the ordering of equipment, supporting academic staff and students (from undergraduates to PhD), reporting any issues that may occur, managing laboratory bookings, student training and more.

How do you balance studying whilst working at the same time?

I have always been an organised person and I make sure that the most pressing tasks are completed and delegate smaller tasks to the technical team, which allows me to make time to carry out the studies for this programme. This has been a successful approach and I hope it continues!

To ensure that I keep up with my online assignments, I find quieter windows throughout the week where teaching and research demands are lighter. This might mean that I schedule a few hours throughout the week to complete my study rather than use a whole day.

For my study days, I inform my manager and my team that I will not be in the office so that the demands of my day-to-day role are covered in my absence.

What is the best thing about being an apprentice?

The best thing about being an apprentice is that I get to learn about the finer details and processes within business management which I was less aware of.

It is also nice to be able to work with expert tutors who know the topics inside out and that the whole process is performed in an open and friendly manner.

The top 3 things I have learnt so far are:

  1. understanding how to read a finance balance sheet;
  2. the complexities involved in international management and;
  3. spending more time reflecting on my daily work practice.

How have you put into practice what you have learnt on your apprenticeship?

I spend more time assessing and evaluating my tasks so that I am continually improving them.

I am particularly proud of being involved in the booking process for equipment and laboratory booking for undergraduate students. This new software has made everything much more efficient and has cut down on staff administration time.

Since starting my apprenticeship I can delegate tasks to my team so that they can develop their skills and techniques which has improved their confidence and boosts resilience across the team.

I regularly give praise and thanks to the team when they do good work and ensure that they are recognised wherever possible to ensure that morale is kept high. I allow them to come up and pitch new ideas or improvements which can be run past and discussed with me and decide on the role out of it which I allow them to lead.

I am also much more aware of certain project management techniques and general management strategies that can be used when working on small projects. I have been able to effectively implement these at work.

How are you supported by your team?

The degree apprenticeship team at the University has been good. My tutors for each module are responsive to requests for feedback on coursework, and I have found the support staff respond to my queries quickly.

I have quarterly meetings with my academic tutor to discuss my progress and any targets to aim for. They have also been very supportive when I have any concerns or worries and knowing you have that person to confide in is comforting.

For example, I felt I needed more clarity on putting together the portfolio of evidence for the Chartered Manager side of the course and my tutor gathered more information regarding this and fed it back so that I knew where to focus on.

My line managers trust that I can manage the course and my workload and allows me to manage this.

Why should someone consider doing an apprenticeship at the University of Exeter?

The Business School is a nice environment to be a part of. There is a real sense of community between the staff, the students, and everybody that I have met so far have been extremely approachable.

I feel the course is making me more confident and assured in my role and that I can influence and persuade the right course of action when moving projects forward.

I have been able to direct and apply the knowledge I have learned through the course, such as monitoring expenditure and understanding balance sheets from the Finance module for example.

I have also used technology and new software to help my colleagues track tasks and maintain equipment which came about as an idea from the Operational Practice module.

The Business School at Exeter is held in high regard around the Globe so it holds a certain prestige, which I hope will stand me in good stead when looking to progress my career further in the future.

I would advise anyone considering taking part in the degree apprenticeship programme to go for it. The workload is more manageable than they might think initially, or at least that is how I have found things so far!

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