In February 2019 I started an apprenticeship which will give me a Level 3 ILM Diploma in Leadership and Management. Before you ask I have checked and I am definitely not the oldest apprentice - in this town anyway! I asked my Manager for training when I began doing more managerial tasks, including writing the library strategy and managing members of staff.

Study should take place in work time and I’m given 20% of my working week to do this. Some weeks I can fairly easily set aside time to do some apprenticeship work whereas in other weeks I find it very hard or impossible to fit it in. There have been times when I’ve just had to do some work at home.

The apprenticeship is split into ten modules:

• Awareness of self
• Management of self
• Communication
• Building relationships
• Leading people
• Managing people
• Operational management
• Finance
• Project management
• Problem-solving
• Decision-making.

Each module contains knowledge, e.g. communication theories and management styles, and skills like chairing meetings, project management and coaching.

I have extensive workbooks for self-directed learning and tutors deliver training, either one-to-one or in workshops. The workshops are a great opportunity to meet other people on the course and to learn using group discussions and practical tasks. I’ve always worked in the academic or public sectors so discussing management styles and disciplinary procedures with private-sector staff was a real eye-opener. Assessments are completed by submitting reports and a portfolio of evidence, professional discussions and exams.

It has been useful to spend some time improving my general working habits. I had to try time management tools and I use them help me decide on my weekly priorities. In the job I’m in I have to take the work that comes through the door each day but I’ve found prioritising tasks has made me work more efficiently, ensures I don’t promise to do more than I realistically can manage and has reduced my stress as I no longer have a never-ending to-do list in front of me.

Much of the work I need for my portfolio I complete as part of my job anyway - team meeting minutes, appraisals, survey analyses etc. I’ve also been able to use tasks we’ve completed in workshops in work. As part of the operational management workshop I had to complete a stakeholder analysis and rate their degree of interest and influence. This was really useful when I wrote our Library strategy and marketing plan.

I’m also being challenged to complete tasks I haven’t tried before. I’ve had to be brave and ask for 360 degree feedback from colleagues which has fed into my Personal Development Plan. I’ve been taught coaching skills and been able to put this skill into practice, benefiting the service and staff member involved who has been encouraged to take on more CPD activities and has gained confidence in her skills. I’ve also had to re-learn how to revise for exams!

The apprenticeship is giving me the chance to find out more about areas of work that I don’t currently have experience of. I’ve been invited to shadow colleagues outside the Library service to understand their roles further and see how they lead and manage their teams. I’ve also had to learn more about the Library budget and ordering systems.

It can be quite difficult to sustain enthusiasm when you are studying alone so the Trust apprenticeship team run monthly forums for apprentices to meet and support each other. Through the forums and workshops I met three colleagues from across the Trust who are completing the same qualification. We now meet once a month to share our knowledge and experiences and encourage each other. It’s been really helpful to get to know other staff members and learn more about their job roles and share with them what we can offer as a Library service. I have also worked on one joint project with one of these members of staff, supporting her to get case studies to publicise her service, and we’ve also discussed introducing a library training programme for some of the staff managed by another member of the group.

I now have six months left to complete my apprenticeship. Unfortunately my progress has been hampered a little by changes in tutors which means I have a lot of assessments to complete in what is increasingly seeming like a very short amount of time. However, I have gained so much so far. I’ve enjoyed studying again and have acquired useful skills that I am now putting into my everyday working practice. I have learned about the different models and theories and understand more about my own leadership and management style which has made me more confident in my own ability and decision-making. Taking part in a non-library based scheme has had many advantages too as I’ve been able to meet and learn from a wide range of people. I also have to say that none of it would have been possible without the support of my colleagues, particularly the Library staff. The apprenticeship has been very focused and relevant to my training needs and has a good balance of theory and practical elements. If you have a chance to apply for one I’d recommend it.

Peta Jones

Tameside and Glossop ICFT Knowledge and Library Service