Posted by on 16 January 2019

Claire Bewshea
University of Exeter
Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust

Describe your role at the university and the team you manage.

I am the manager of a fairly new research group which has grown from 2 to 13 in the last 10 years. We deliver large multi-centre NHS research projects across the 145 hospitals and many international sites we collaborate with.

Our group consist of a central core administration team, gastroenterology consultants, clinical research fellows (2 from Australia every year), doctors who are doing PhD, research nurses, a statistician and a laboratory technician. It’s a mixture of UoE and NHS staff.

We work in the field of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which is an autoimmune disease causing inflammation of the gut. It is incurable and thought to have genetic and environmental causes.

The aims of the group are primarily to investigate why patients with IBD often fail expensive drug treatment and suffer from deliberating drug side effects.

In the last ten years we have recruited over 6000 IBD patients to our studies, collected 1 million biological samples, built up a network of over 400 research doctors and nurses, discovered 3 genetic markers that can be used in genetic testing and completed the largest study in the NHS looking at response to biologic drugs in Crohn’s disease.

Describe how you come to have apprentices in your team? 

We have just finished a very large research project – it has been an extremely busy number of years and we are about to go on to the next steps of our projects.

I was very keen to develop a professional pathway for the increasingly large group of clinical research administrators, coordinators and managers that work in the college and contribute significantly to the excellent research happening here. We must attract high-quality staff that they are trained and have an established career route.

It seemed the perfect opportunity for one of my team, Marian, to do the Team leader/supervisor, Level: 3 apprenticeship.

Describe your experience managing and supporting your apprentice?

Marian and I sit in the same office and this makes it very easy to catch up and set objectives – it is almost a natural part of our daily routine. We discuss the apprenticeship daily, and the new skills each module brings, and this makes it very easy to bring elements of the apprenticeship into Marian’s role. As we both see the apprenticeship as a very positive experience, and I am very encouraging as a manager, it helps integrate the skills and knowledge in Marian’s job.

How do you and your apprentice effectively manage the 20% off-the-job training commitment?

Marian manages her 20% very well and blocks out specific times each day so it’s spread across the week. She attends Exeter College one day each week where she receives her training from her college tutors.

We are a fairly small team and it does put a little bit of pressure on our workload, but we did consider this before applying for the apprenticeship. The timing of the training is very good as we are in a quieter period and coming to the end of an extremely busy few years.

We are a very dynamic team and used to picking up workloads and supporting each other. I am happy to take on some of the additional duties as I know in the short term the benefits are such that Marian will be increasingly a much stronger position and have the confidence to take on more of my duties.

Futurelearn ( is a very good tool for additional CPD training it has a wide range of courses covering all aspects of business and management. Also, Marian is doing training through the University of Exeter LearnUpon and People Development website.

Describe how your apprentice(s) are making a valuable contribution, and adding value, to your team?

Marian is very enthusiastic, and this increased enthusiasm is reflected in a very positive way in her daily role. Marian has benefited by having a day out of the office to focus on her career development and is then able to embed learning back in the office.

Marian has completed the first module and was very pleased to have passed.

3 months in and I am already able to delegate tasks. Marian is increasingly using her initiative and is keen to push herself and take on those tasks that she would have previously required some support to do. Recently Marian had to obtain the regulatory approvals for a new project. Before the apprenticeship she would have hesitated, however, she took it on and was extremely thorough, ensuring she had all the right documents and processes in place.

Why should another manager consider recruiting an apprentice, or encourage staff to upskill on an apprenticeship? 

It’s great formalised training with a qualification at the end; the student gets ongoing support from Exeter College. Enabling a member of staff to have a focused day a week on themselves and their development is extremely motivating and makes them feel very valued. These positive reinforcements can only lead to a positive working environment and are, therefore, a win-win for both the employer and employee.

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