A monthly exploration into the world of sustainability in the built environment with commentary and input from UCEM’s Vice Chancellor and academics.
Introducing… Our Apprenticeship Outcomes Officers
Posted on: 5 March, 2019
Having started our new ‘Introducing…’ blog series last month, this month, to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week, we speak to our Apprenticeship Outcomes Officers – or AOOs.
We have 13 AOOs in total who provide one-to-one support to our apprentices – a role which is all-encompassing and includes providing pastoral support and ensuring apprentices and employers are meeting their contractual obligations.
The AOOs cover three levels of apprentice – Level 3, Level 6 and Level 7 – and work hard to ensure those on apprenticeships with UCEM are successful. We could continue but we’ll allow four of our AOOs to discuss their role, give their thoughts about it and tell us a little bit more about themselves…
Jenny Curtis – Level 6 AOO
“Not a lot of other universities provide the service we do with coaching our apprentices. UCEM is unique in that respect.
“We do 10 weekly progress reviews with apprentices. We monitor their development and offer pastoral support to make sure they are progressing academically and getting good results.
“We help to ensure that they are on track with their assignments and complete the mandatory requirements for the apprenticeship.
“We make sure they are aware of safeguarding and British values. We set SMART targets to help their Maths and English development.
“Some reviews can be hard if a learner is having personal problems. I have recently had one of my apprentices go through quite a lot so I make sure I check in with them on a regular basis.
“The aim is to have a minimum of two progress reviews per day to ensure we have enough time to have an in-depth conversation and that the experience is a quality one for the apprentice.
“We provide one-to-one support to our apprentices. In the one-to-one progress reviews, we encourage our apprentices’ line managers to join the review – this helps us to better understand what experience and support an apprentice is gaining within the workplace.
“Some apprentices feel they don’t need frequent progress reviews. It’s down to us [the AOOs] to set the scene correctly and set the record straight to say we are here to offer pastoral support throughout their Chartered Surveying Degree. I explain to the apprentices the importance and relevance of their progress reviews.
“I recently had an apprentice send me a message saying: ‘Thank you so much for your support. I don’t know what I would have done without it. It’s been helpful to have someone on the phone to speak to.’
“It’s great for our apprentices to have someone on the end of the phone. The apprentices are thankful we are there to support them. If they are falling behind, we are there to provide advice and guidance in order to help them get back on track.
“As a team [Level 6 AOOs], we have weekly Skype catch-ups. We aim to be in the office [UCEM’s Reading HQ] 30 days a year or twice a month.
“The objective is to work as a team and we have training days for this purpose. We regularly Skype one another to support each other. We are good at sharing ideas and providing updates. If a learner is experiencing any problems, we can share the example of how we have dealt with it – this prevents the rest of the team having to look into how something is needed to be done and enables better use of everyone’s time.
“We are all in the same boat. We support our apprentices as best we can.
“I have been doing this role for two-and-a-half years. It was a career change for me as I was working in training and development in Marketing and sales departments.
“The reason I made the career change was, with my previous role, I worked with two or three apprentices. I had to support them on a day-to-day basis and I really enjoyed doing this. There was then a restructure and I took voluntary redundancy.
“I then applied for my current role. It was a rare job and I was lucky to have found this as there were not many around. I have loved it ever since as I love to support and coach others.
“When an apprentice says: ‘Thanks for your help’, ‘thank you for listening’ or when they have passed their exams, it makes you realise, that what we do, does in fact make a difference to our apprentices.”
Debi Gaskin-Palmer – Level 6 Lead AOO
“We monitor the progress and achievement of the apprentices. It is an all-encompassing role and quite a holistic approach looking at their academic achievement, health and welfare, offering support and making sure they understand what they are learning.
“We are helping them achieve to the best of their ability. The work we do with apprentices varies quite widely and we adjust what we do to cater for that.
“Some of the apprentices are in management positions and others are new to the workplace and getting to know the sector, and we have everything in-between.
“We have to be compliant with the ESFA funding rules and we aim to deliver the highest standard of quality in to our apprentices and employers. Our team benchmark is ‘excellence’.
“We are the only forward-facing team that has daily contact with the apprentices and employers on a one-to-one basis.
“Before I started the job, it was the kind of role necessary to help apprentices to succeed. Apprenticeships are complex because there are so many variables. If one goes wrong and is undetected it could mean failure for the apprentice.
“This role is unique. In my 10 or so years of working within further and higher education, I have never seen this kind of role before.
“It is only within the last 12-18 months this has happened [developing apprentice support in this way]. It has come to prominence since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.
“There are more of these in-house roles to help apprentices along the way.
“As a Lead AOO I have a case load of 56 apprentices. The AOOs in my team have around 75 apprentices in their case load.
“So far, I think the apprentices have found our involvement beneficial, even some of the more sceptical ones! We give them guidance, ideas, support and clarity with the role.
“It’s very beneficial for apprentices to have this support. We are with them from enrolment through to their end-point assessment which is the RICS APC.
“Part of my role is to provide guidance and mentoring to our AOOs. The other part is doing the same as what they are doing with the apprentices and employers. We help Andy Dodson [Chartered Surveyor Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Manager], John Pratt and John Barfoot [Director of Apprenticeships and Associate Director of Apprenticeships, respectively] in planning and disseminating information to the team. We have got to balance the two.
“Sarah [Olliver – the other Level 6 Lead AOO] and I work closely. We work together in Horizons once a week.
“My years’ working experience were in the creative industries – TV, fashion and music. In a previous role, I worked in marketing at a large record company.
“When I left I was approached by a music charity organisation to deliver a music industry element to open the eyes of ‘NEET’ [not in education, employment or training] young people to the possibilities and opportunities in the music industry.
“I found it very rewarding passing on my experience. I could see how it had a positive impact on them. I thought that was more worth my while than lining the pockets of people in the music industry!
“I went to work at London Met University after that in widening participation.
“I find it fulfilling to help people achieve through knowledge, breaking down barriers to learning, and helping people get to the next level – that’s what we do with the apprentices.
“People from all backgrounds make a huge step in a relatively short space of time from just entering the sector.”
Rebecca Bickerton – Level 3 Lead AOO
“The official job description is to provide information, advice and guidance to apprentices, their employers and line managers.
“We are the human voice to UCEM’s virtual world.
“We have progress reviews with the apprentices to see how they are getting on and to see if there are any concerns.
“We assess how they are developing their English and maths skills through various tasks in the workplace such as improving their English skills through a work presentation to help their communication skills.
“We discuss their role in the workplace and support them to achieve their AssocRICS at the end of the process. That’s the goal!
“Outside of that, we deal with enquiries. I tend to get 20-40 emails per day. I deal with pastoral issues such as welfare and safeguarding.
“We make line managers aware of what the expectations of them are on the programme.
“As a Lead, I make sure I support to the best of my ability the wider Level 3 team working directly with Sam Ricketts [Surveying Technician Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Manager] to make sure the other AOOs have the tools to do their role.
“Our role is unique. You get really positive feedback from the apprentices – ‘thank you so much. I would not have been able to do it without your help. Thank you for checking up on me.’
“Our apprentices are going through challenging times but they can know we are here to listen.
“I’ve worked in education before. I’m a real people person, I’m a good communicator and confident speaking to apprentices and building up a rapport with them. I genuinely care about how they do.
“I get called the Terrier by my team for the way I work on behalf of the apprentices. I am not afraid to challenge things.
“I love my job supporting apprentices. It’s really enjoyable seeing someone struggle at the start of the first year, and see the progress they have made by the end of the year.
“It’s rewarding when you turn someone around who wasn’t engaged at the start.”
Johane Doe – Level 3 AOO
“My role is to support the employer and apprentices through their journey. Any issues I answer myself or I signpost to the relevant person.
“My background is in welfare and in getting unemployed people into work. What attracted me to the role is working with people who want to improve their skills.
“I enjoy talking to the employers and the apprentices, listening to how they are developing and getting passionate about what they are learning, both academically and in the workplace.”