Rediscovering the intellectual muscle memory…

Simon George

As part of National Apprenticeship Week we are posting daily blogs profiling INLOGOV’s Senior Leader Apprenticeship.  Today we here from a recent graduate, Simon George, and his experience of returning to study and balancing his studies with a global pandemic.

Picture: Eldriva

January 18th was an important day for me this year as not only was it my 50th birthday, but also the day I received my apprenticeship grade after a mixture of two years of academic study and practical learning/application at work.

Over the two years as a senior leader at a large county council it often felt strange referring to myself as being on an apprenticeship scheme, but by the end of the period it has felt much more normal.  With other senior colleagues at my council undertaking a similar journey, as well as chums in other organisations, perhaps the language and understanding around “Apprenticeships” has shifted over the past 24 months?

It was a good number of years since I had either studied for a degree or for professional qualifications and during the first couple of terms there was definitely some intellectual “muscle memory” that needed to be recovered. I soon realised that in my day job I review and (maybe) add a little to reports/documents, then forward them on; researching topics, crafting an essay from scratch and getting to grips with academic referencing certainly took some getting used to as it was completely different to my usual way of working. However, the support from INLOGOV was great in this regard; online resources abound, but more importantly a quick email to either one’s personal tutor or the module lecturer always received a swift/insightful response removing whatever log-jam was in the way.

As part of the apprenticeship one’s employer is required to carve-out 20% of the working week as time to spend on the apprenticeship – so in my case a day-a-week. In truth that worked out about the right amount of time for me: as I say to my 9 year-old “Steady-Eddy wins the race”, regularly bagging that day week, meant the reading was done and the assignments submitted without too-much late night caffeine fuelled drama (largely because that is a young person’s game!)

COVID obviously had an impact on both the academic and on-the-job aspect of the apprenticeship.  Sadly, it meant only two of the six modules “face-to-face” learning was done on Campus, meaning some of the contacts/connections one would hope to make are not as deep or as enduring, however I have a few.  But the online learning worked just fine and I would say excepting the time lost chatting over coffee or in the bar, I don’t feel the experience has been materially denuded.

For anyone considering an apprenticeship at the higher level, I would really recommend it. It is good to challenge your ways of thinking and actively assimilate different perspectives that can be applied back at the workplace. It is a commitment, but I as I mentioned earlier as long as you keep the interaction with the apprenticeship regular and don’t try and cram it all into a week once a term it is all doable.

So did I get a nice birthday present on the 18th January? Modesty prevents me from saying, but I was pretty chuffed!

Simon George is Executive Director of Finance and Commercial Services for Norfolk County Council.  He was an INLOGOV Senior Leader Apprentice 2019-2021.

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