“It’s been an incredible experience” says Richard Pemberton, a recent graduate from the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA).

The CMDA is for professional managers who, like Richard, want to develop all aspects of their managerial and leadership practice. Co-designed with employers and validated by the Chartered Management Institute (of which graduates become members), the programme sees apprentices engage with theory and practice associated with ever-changing organisational landscapes – economic, operational, managerial, technical, social, and ethical.

Richard is the Knowledge and Library Service Strategic Manager at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, a role he took up about halfway through the three-year CDMA course which he began in 2020.

A specialist librarian (he already had a degree in Librarianship), Richard had risen in his previous organisation to a position of seniority. However, he observes that being promoted to management from a specialist position meant that he lacked some of the required skills and knowledge to manage – the reason he joined the course. Adding a new job into the mix made the requirement for learning more important still. He says: “Taking on this new role was a huge change for me and I had to hit the ground running. It was quite daunting.”

Three years later, Richard has won an organisational staff award and the work of his team has been similarly recognised for transforming a library service.

Under Richard’s leadership, out went surplus storage equipment and in came paint and brushes as underused areas became new learning resources with a strong digital emphasis. Where possible, usable but unwanted furniture and equipment was rescued from other parts of the organisation, one result of which is the range of historic medical equipment and documentation on display in salvaged display cases dotted around the library. These changes have improved user experience and help to increase engagement with both enquiries and resources accessed nearly doubling over the last 18 months.

Richard says: “The Degree Apprenticeship has been invaluable to help us in making this happen. For example, I've been able to apply change management orthodoxies and bring the team along with me at a pace that works for them. Their feedback has been that they have never experienced change to be so easy. I thought I was a good people manager previously, but the course showed me that I could do an awful lot more – and I’ve done an awful lot more. It’s been an incredible experience.”

Richard Pemberton at work in his office
Richard Pemberton, recent graduate from the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship.

Whilst the course draws upon the Christ Church Business School’s considerable academic resources and expertise, it is highly distinctive in its integration of academic learning with the world of work. Apprentices bring real business problems into the classroom, and by applying academic ideas develop deeper understandings of how they might solve them.

For three years during term time apprentices attend the University for one working day per week, with considerably more time spent on learning outside the classroom. However, for those concerned by the additional workload, Richard is at pains to stress he found it manageable – largely because he was able to use CDMA assignments to tackle real life work issues. He says: “Only very occasionally did the course requirements mean I had to work weekends and evenings, and a point came when work and the apprenticeship became one and the same thing for me.”

Apprenticeships can be pursued by those in full time employment who meet the qualification criteria (most candidates will have A-levels or equivalent qualifications as well as Maths and English GCSE) at no cost to the apprentice and either zero or minimal cost to the employer, with funding either wholly or significantly provided by the government’s Apprenticeship Levy.

Richard concludes: “Loads of people, including me, have fallen into management rather than choosing to do it – this course is perfect for us ‘accidental managers”.

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