Our mission at OCS is to help people and places to ‘be your best’.
And, while we usually talk about that in the context of our customers’ businesses, people and places, the notion equally applies to our own people and places, too.
It’s important as a business for us to support people to develop their careers, achieve more and perform even better, and we constantly strive to offer training and development opportunities to those who want to seize them.
Recently, two members of OCS – Marketing Business Partner Kirstie Stevens and Operations Manager Sharon Roper – graduated from University Centre Quayside (UCQ) with a BA (Hons) in Professional Management, via the OCS Apprenticeship Scheme.
In addition to the opportunity to take part in the three-year course, Kirstie and Sharon were given a day’s study leave each week – although the amount of work the course demanded meant it was a rewarding yet all-consuming experience.
“I was new to degrees, although I have taken part in education through work before, and I don’t think I fully realised just how much time I’d have to put into it,” laughs Sharon, who works in OCS’s Healthcare and Education sector.
There was plenty of evening and weekend work, and for three years it was continuous, so we had little opportunity to rest – however, it was brilliant; very rewarding, and now it’s over, I do miss it!
OCS’s Healthcare and Education sector
Balancing the day-to-day
The Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship was based on a series of academic assignments, self-reflection, peer and line manager reviews, assessor observations and an end-point assessment, with modules including project management, business finance, sales and marketing, digital business, communication, developing collaborative relationships, decision-making and management – all of which are directly applicable to the day-to-day roles Kirstie and Sharon both undertake.
Over the course of the three years, the pair received the support of their colleagues and teams, which was a crucial component of completing the degree successfully.
“Everyone was very supportive,” says Kirstie. “I blocked out study time in my diary, and the team was very respectful of that. My colleagues were always on hand if I needed any advice or guidance, and they were really encouraging, making it easier to keep going.”
Putting learnings into action
Through the degree course, Kirstie and Sharon have picked up and developed a wide range of new skills that they’ve been able to quickly put into practice. Some of those learnings have been directly related to the subject matter – others have come from the process of undertaking the degree itself.
“Like Sharon, this was my first degree, and the project management module was particularly important for me, in terms of developing those skills, while time management and organisation were also valuable because of balancing the demands of work and the course,” says Kirstie.
Sharon agrees, and found the level of research required to put together regular assignments, and the final, 8000-word dissertation also proved hugely beneficial.
“I’ve noticed that I automatically research a lot more now,” she says. “I find myself really digging deep into finding out information on how to resolve this problem to then construct a full report for the customer. I don’t know whether I would have investigated something so thoroughly if I hadn’t studied the degree.”
The lasting benefits of higher education
And the benefits of undertaking the degree will continue to be enjoyed by Kirstie, Sharon and OCS over the months and years to come, as the process has left a lasting impact on the pair.
My confidence overall has improved in various aspects such as communication, decision-making and stakeholder relationship development, which I think really helps with my role here at OCS.
The pair will be awarded their degrees in a graduation ceremony on 1 December, which will officially mark a fantastic achievement.
“I’m just super proud of us,” says Kirstie. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to have been able to do this, especially with the study time as well.”
Sharon echoes those sentiments. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity we’ve had, and as much as it has been blood, sweat and tears, I’ve loved every minute of it.
“UCQ have been great as well – they’ve been very supportive and are always there when you need them, and the course content really fits in with the work we do here.”