Posted by on 05 March 2020

Adrian Clark
Administrator to Biomedical Neuroscience Research Group
University of Exeter College of Medicine and Health

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I have been lucky enough to have a varied career over the last eleven years, working in a variety of sectors from Charity, Hospitality to Education.

I was part of the launch of a new charity, which formed in 2009. It was a fantastic thing to be involved in, especially seeing how a new company was formed, and the work that goes into it.

After this, I was unsure of what I wanted to do next, when I saw an advert for a Business and Administration apprentice at South Devon College.

I enjoyed my two and a half years at South Devon College very much as it provided me with the opportunity to learn about the education sector and how to become a Business/Administration professional. While I was there, I took advantage of other courses available to me to gain as many professional skills as possible. It gave me a fantastic foundation on which to build for the future, as before this I had only limited experience.

At South Devon College, I completed not only a level 2 qualification but also a level 3 Business and Administration apprenticeship, before taking a job at another FE college in their Student Services department.

I then worked in Hospitality for a major European hotel chain for a short time, before joining the University of Exeter as a Student Services Receptionist in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences (CEMPS).

I have worked at the university for over five years in a variety of roles and have built up my knowledge of how the university works and how different departments function.

I now work in the Medical School as a Personal Assistant (PA)/Administrator, which is a varied role where I support academics day-to-day with a variety of tasks from managing diaries to booking travel.

I also am accountable for taking on the managing and organising of a variety of events such as the recent Cell Science Investigates annual event held at the Medical School.

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

Because of my previous experience with apprenticeships, I know the positive impact they can have therefore after a break of almost ten years between my first apprenticeship and this one; I thought it was time for some more learning.

I am passionate about continuous professional development, so when the opportunity arose I thought it was too good to miss, knowing what I would gain and how it would benefit the college.

The apprenticeship was not always easy; however, once I settled into a routine I found enjoyed the variety of class sessions and the visits with my assessor. It was interesting to see how the College had changed in the ten years since my first apprenticeship.

I genuinely believe I have become not only more confident but better at problem-solving after the knowledge gained and would recommend this to anyone interested.

Describe your typical day.

A typical day for me includes looking at the diaries I manage to check for any potential clashes, then trying to make sure that these are sorted as soon as possible.

I am responsible for organising the weekly The Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Science (IBCS) seminars in the Medical School. I also check the availability for upcoming weeks to ensure that people have signed up for these events and that they are filled.

Booking travel is another part of my role, and something I enjoy immensely, as I had previously studied Travel and Tourism at College so have always enjoyed the logistics of booking travel. Moreover, I take on the organising of a variety of events and enjoy being involved in these from start to finish, getting to see these through and meeting people from different organisations.

My role is very varied as I work from two different sites so I enjoy the differences between Streatham Campus and the Research Innovation Learning and Development (RILD) building in Exeter where tasks can be different and I get to meet different people.

The variety of my role means there is not always a typical day so I get to be involved in lots of different things. I also will meet with academics once a week where I can for a catch up so that we are on top of any new developments that may arise.

Explain how you balanced studying and working.

This has not always been easy, especially because I have not done any learning for a long time so I was out of the habit when it came to studying. However, I have been extremely well supported by my current line manager who has always helped with identifying things that could be used for evidence and have always had their blessing to make time at work to focus on any work I have.

It meant I had to carefully prioritise my work, however, all staff I worked with were aware the days I was busy with my apprenticeship so from the start we were able to have a plan in place if I wasn’t here and something needed to be done urgently. There were times where I had events on and deadlines to meet at the same time for my apprenticeship work, however, I was always in constant contact with my assessor if I thought I needed any extra time, and I was always happy to make extra time to get things completed on time.

Describe what the best thing about being an apprentice is to you.

The best thing for me is the learning of new skills and the different ways to can look at things. I have found this experience to be very insightful with the new skills I have learnt and the ways of looking at how you could do things in the future.

It was also important to have the class sessions as everybody you are with is in the same boat as you, however, are from different backgrounds and have different experiences, which you can all learn. Finally, this will help going forward and I am already looking at what can be done after this in terms of further study.

What are the most impactful three top things you have learnt?

  1. Listen to other people’s experiences/opinions.
  2. Believe in yourself.
  3. There is time to work and study at the same time if you want to.

What did you learn during your apprenticeship training that you have put into practice in the workplace?

The one major example that springs to mind are the project management module as this is something I had limited experience with beforehand. I was able to look at the different stages of project management in detail, learning about the roles within project management and how the different theories could be applied to events I was organising at the time. Things such as milestones which I had never heard of before were a great way to see how you were performing and to check all deliverables were being achieved helping to update people efficiently.

Also, looking at why evaluation was so important and I was able to take things I had learnt at the time and use them straight away in any projects I was involved in. I feel this has had a positive effect on my team as I have improved not only on a personal level, but I have been able to look at things differently and come up with new ways of working that I may not have done previously.

What support did you get?

From the start of my role, my line manager made it very easy for me to take this opportunity and make it a success. They did this through allowing me the time to do any tasks, meeting with me and my assessor and making the effort to come up with ways of how I could reference things or become involved in things that would benefit the apprenticeship and me. I have had great support from the team here at the Medical School, which has helped me to complete this course successfully and make the most of this opportunity.

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

There are many reasons why I would recommend an apprenticeship, however, the main thing I would say is the opportunities and new ways of working it can bring. It offers new ways of doing things and can help with how you perform in your current role while at the same time providing the foundation to progress further if you want to.

What would you advise someone considering an apprenticeship?

Make the time to do the work, ensuring you set aside time to complete any tasks you have so that you can prioritise your work and study accordingly. Also, try to use the things you learn on the course by implementing them in your current role, for example, different methods of working.

Finally, have fun with it and try to set yourself some targets. Such as things you particularly want to learn, as this can also be very helpful if there is a specific topic you want to know more about and your assessor can help put the correct modules in your apprenticeship.

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