Posted by on 14 January 2020

Jonathan Cresswell,

Learning, Development and Apprenticeships Manager,

University of Exeter

My “introduction” to the world of Human Resources (HR) started back in 2002 when I went on my Junior Command Course in the Royal Marines (RM).  Command courses in Her Majesty’s Forces cover Command, Leadership and Management (CLM – yes, all three are different…but that’s a separate topic that I’m not getting drawn into today).

I went on to pass my Senior Command Course in the RM and was subsequently  commissioned into the Royal Navy (RN) as a Logistics Officer.  My role in the RN exposed me to legal casework, performance management, and to broader HR policy and procedures.  My role meant I had to be the Ships subjects matter expert in HR and casework and advise the Ships Captain and the command team.

Not everyone associates leadership (or the military for that matter) with HR, however, people management and pastoral care are essential for all good leaders in HR.  With military units deployed all over the globe you need robust leaders in place, with the right knowledge, skills and behaviours, to be able to ensure that personnel issues are resolved at the lowest level, and that everyone is trained and competent to do their job.  After all someone’s life will literally depend on it!

Upon leaving the forces in 2012 I started a new career at the University of Exeter.  I joined HR services in 2017 where I was seconded into the HR policy team, for 1 year, to write and implement a university wide Apprenticeship Strategy.

Following my secondment I applied for a role advertised with the Learning and Development (L&D) team.  My role covers the management of learning and development opportunities for staff and managing the university wide approach to employing apprentices.  During my induction to the L&D team we discussed CIPD training and I decided to wait a while until I had built up some experience in my new role.  Having worked with the L&D team since May 2018 I wanted to build and develop a greater understanding of HR and work towards a CIPD professional qualification.

My apprenticeship journey started in the last few months of 2019 following a 1:1 conversation with Clive, my manager.

Having discussed options with my manager, he agreed that I could sign up for the HR Consultant/Partner level 5 Apprenticeship with Exeter College.  I’m really thankful to Clive for giving me this amazing opportunity.

I completed my application and submitted it to Exeter College. The College sent me an email to make arrangements for a sign up meeting, asking for copies of my GCSE Maths and English certificates, and a link to online functional skills tests in Maths and English.

The functional skills tests were basic everyday Maths and English tests to be completed online.  Although the questions were basic, I had not done some of the topics since my school days so I had to rack my brain to remember how to do them.  On completion of the tests the computer gave me my score. Thankfully I passed both at the required level (you need to achieve level 2 or higher).

Clive (my manager), Charlie (Training & Recruitment Advisor from Exeter College) and I met in my workplace for a sign up meeting.  The meeting went well and we discussed the apprenticeship I was about to embark on, responsibilities of employer (line manager and the Univesity) the training provider (Exeter College) and me as an apprentice.  I added the responsibilities to the university apprenticeship website as it’s useful to know when considering apprenticeships.  We also signed the Apprenticeship Agreement, Commitment Statement and College Admissions paperwork.  It took around an hour to go through everything, but it was very informative and it meant I would start the programme understanding what I had let myself in for!

Apprenticeship off-the-job (OTJ) training must be a minimum of 20% of your contracted hours.  My programme is delivered at college, in Exeter city centre, one day each week during college term-time.  Outside of term times I can take my leave, but when I’m at work I will still need to keep up my OTJ training so will keep to my one day each week for study.  To help with this I have scheduled the study days in my work calendar as a reminder to me and my team.  This makes it easy for both me and my manager to know when I’m focussing on my apprenticeship and when I’m focussing on my job.

Being an apprentice will give me a unique perspective on the “apprenticeship journey” which will, I hope, enable me to better manage apprenticeship programmes and see it from both an employer’s and an apprentice’s perspective.  In fact, I feel that I’m in a very unique position as I am a parent to two apprentices, I’m an apprentice, and I’m an employer of apprentices!

I’m really looking forward to starting my HR apprenticeship with Exeter College in January.

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