Full name: Richard McNab
Apprenticeship course: Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship
Richard McNab, a mature student from Northamptonshire, was among the first to study for the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship at the University of Northampton. After serving in the military, Rich began working in Health and Safety and quickly developed his career with his employer, HORIBA.
After a promotion to Health & Safety Manager, Rich was keen to enhance his management skills and began to search for a professional qualification. Rich said: “I was looking at professional development options and the degree apprenticeship route made complete sense. I have a young family, so I felt a full-time programme would have been too challenging to manage.
“The learning style of a degree apprenticeship suited me, as I prefer the condensed, modular learning structure. It’s a lot of work to balance alongside a full-time role, but it is split into manageable chunks, plus you can put the learning straight into practice at work. I was conscious that my employer was already paying into the Levy, so it made good business sense to tap into that opportunity.”
Degree Apprenticeships allow for on-the-job experience, blended with academic activities, with your employer releasing you for 20% of your working week to attend timetabled workshops, and study sessions, to enable you to work towards a degree qualification.
For Rich, it had been some time since he was last involved in any kind of formal education and returning to study was daunting. Rich said: “I left school at 16 and went straight into the military, although I did complete another apprenticeship as part of my service, and a diploma in 2018, these were very focused on practical learning and specific job skills. I knew that to be the kind of leader I want to be, I needed to develop my critical thinking skills and understand management more deeply”.
“It was a bit of a culture shock to start to write academic essays, but the degree apprenticeship at Northampton is structured to help you develop those skills while you study. If you have the aptitude, attitude, and potential, you’ll do well with a degree apprenticeship.
“The tutors really know their stuff, which is motivating. They’re understanding of our challenges, approachable and supportive when it comes to the sessions they run, clarifying things, or giving you a bit of one-to-one support if you’re struggling.”
Rich believes the professional nature of the apprenticeship, and the fact it’s work-based is invaluable. He said: “For me, a huge benefit of a degree apprenticeship, over alternative qualifications, has been the chance to learn from my peers. My employer has been extremely supportive, not only with fully enabling me to spend time away from the office, but also supporting me to have access to other professionals across the business to tap into as part of my studies. I believe that this has helped me, in a professional capacity. Not only with building relationships across the company, but also by bringing the knowledge I’m gaining from my studies back into other business areas too.
“Another great source of knowledge, support and inspiration has come from the other students in my cohort. We are a wide range of professionals working across different sectors and roles. Being able to share experiences and talk about how our organisations and business disciplines would respond to the topics we study has added another dimension to my learning experience.“
Rich credits his degree apprenticeship with helping him to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic. Working in health and safety, Rich has had to think fast, act quickly and navigate decisions with wide-ranging business impacts over the last 18 months. He said: “The critical thinking, negotiating, and influencing skills I’ve developed as part of the apprenticeship have helped me navigate the professional demands of the pandemic. It has made me much more reflective on my own behaviour and performance, and how they impact my organisation.
“I’m very proud of the way the management team at HORIBA have handled the pandemic. Being an active member of the team, in a high pressured situation, I was able to communicate effectively with people at all levels in the organisation to find collaborative solutions; rather than just telling people how things needed to be done, which is often how health and safety is perceived to be. I’ve made it a priority to consider the challenges and demands that other managers face, and work with them to get things done.”
The degree apprenticeship is already paying dividends for Rich’s career. He has recently been promoted to Safety, Health & Environmental (SHE) Manager, acquiring another management system as part of his portfolio, and is collaborating on significant projects across the business. He said: “In my annual review, my line manager was able to see the value of the degree apprenticeship and recognised my achievements. I believe this was a factor in the decision to allocate more responsibility to me”.
“I can see how much I’ve developed, not only professionally, but on a personal level too. It’s extremely rewarding knowing that people around the business feel they can approach me for my professional opinion and support with their challenges. I believe the barrier between safety management and business management is now significantly smaller, and I feel confident using my influence to help HORIBA become an even safer workplace.”