Next Step Apprenticeships - Level 5 Operations and Departmental Management

Tania Skinner - Leadership and Management Apprentice

Next Step Apprentice Tania Skinner who is a Children’s Centre Advisor has recently achieved a Distinction in a Level 5 apprenticeship – Operations and Departmental Management. 

She is also currently re-deployed up to three days a week with the Customer Service Centre making calls to vulnerable customers who are shielding due to Covid-19 to arrange food parcels and support.

Tania has worked for Devon County Council since 2002 (having just left University as a mature student). During her time with DCC she has completed a CACHE Level 3 qualification in Playwork; an NVQ level 4 qualification in Management, and a Leaderships and Management Playwork Level 6 module at Marjons College in Plymouth.

Despite always enjoying studying Tania had not completed any formal qualification for ten years. She had changed job roles within the Early Years Sector and felt she was at a point in her career where she needed to change her focus, improve her skills and look for promotion. She also felt her management qualifications were a bit dated and needed a refresher in that.

“As a Children’s Centre Advisor for Devon, my job role has expanded over the years from just covering the southern area to the whole of Devon, so I felt I needed to advance my professional qualifications. As I am also a carer in my personal life, my time is limited outside of work hours and the costs of taking on a course were prohibitive for me.

“When I heard about DCC’s offer of apprenticeships for existing workers, my initial reaction was of apprentices being teenagers at the start of their career and not experienced staff working at management levels. I was also the wrong side of 50 so my teenage years were a long way behind me.”

The time element was always going to be difficult for Tania, but she, and all apprentices are offered 20% off the job training to study. Off-the-job training is defined as learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and supports the achievement of an apprenticeship.

“I attended South Devon College, on a weekly basis for the first academic year. The sessions were held in the morning with an allowance to self-study in the afternoon, and the opportunity to use the college facilities. I met some fantastic people on the course, and we helped to learn from each other. Alongside me there were people studying from Torbay Council and the NHS, and it was invaluable to listen to their work experiences, gaining insights into other organisations.”

There were two options for Tania’s qualification. Either complete eight assignments and receive a level five diploma, or there is an option, in addition to the formal section of the course, to take on the apprenticeship in full that offered the opportunity of membership of the CMI Chartered Managers Institute. Tania chose this option which offers support, training and the prestige of being part of a professional management organisation. Tania achieved this by writing and managing a project.

“The project was a lot more work than I expected and took a year to complete. Once the project was finalised, there was an end point assessment which involved a knowledge test, an online interview, and presentation. The project needed to be time limited and have a clear end point.

“I set my project around communication for agencies who serve the new town of Sherford. The project was named “Connecting Sherford” and involved over 20 agencies. I chose to focus on this as I knew there was a limit to the statutory services that were being delivered in the town. Through the project I was able to link up Plymouth and Devon services and produce a directory to share their contacts.

“It was a challenge and at times difficult as I did need to work weekends and in my own time to complete assignments to the standard required but it paid off for me in the end.”

To her own surprise, Tania received a Distinction overall and her achievement is even more impressive as she has dyslexia which means she has always had to work harder to meet a basic standard:

“Looking back at my education path, I did not do particularly well at school and didn’t attend university until I was in my 30s, but it really is never too late to learn.

“Since doing this course it has raised my confidence levels and I have improved as a manager. My chairing of meetings focus in my work, and my writing of reports and minutes have improved dramatically.

“I have made some new friends and associates from other organisations from the course and best of all I have a student card and get the student discounts that my children are no longer entitled to, much to their annoyance!”

Tania’s achievement has been recognised by our Chief Executive, Phil Norrey who wished Tania every success in her career and in all the work she does to support and improve the lives of young people in Devon.

Head of Education and Learning, Dawn Stabb also congratulated Tania:

“I wanted to send you my personal congratulations on achieving a Distinction in your Level 5 apprenticeship – Operations and Departmental Management. This is a significant achievement in itself but I understand that by taking an additional element you are also now a member of the Chartered Management Institute.

“Val Smith, Senior Commissioning Manager (Early Years) has told me how hard you have worked to achieve this qualification and that you were the only member of the Early Years team who took up the challenge when it was first offered. You must be delighted with the result, and I know that Val is too.”

Tania Skinner

Children's Centre Advisor

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