National Apprenticeship Week

Katy Sharp – Junior Project Manager, Group Product & Technology

Katy Sharp – Junior Project Manager, Group Product & Technology

Tell us about your experience of being an apprentice?

I started an apprenticeship in Project Management at Cox Automotive on 3rd March 2014, so I’ve been here three years this week! I completed my apprenticeship at the same time as Sam Gallacher, who is also now a Junior Business Change Manager. The apprenticeship took place over two years, and consisted of building a portfolio of evidence about projects on which we worked, the development of our skillset, and two exams. We learned about budgets, benefits management, stakeholder management, and planning with resources. For the first six months, we shadowed established business change managers at Cox Automotive, supporting them on delivering elements of their projects while observing and learning. As we started undertaking classroom learning, we then began to pick up our own small projects to manage through from start to finish. By the end of the two years, we had passed both exams, and were independently managing projects of our own in all aspects.

Why did you want to be one, what attracted you?

I tried university for six months, studying for a Law degree in Leeds. While I loved the subject, I couldn’t see myself doing it as a career. I didn’t find the format and structure of learning at university to be at all beneficial for me and my mindset at the time. I’ve always learned best through doing, so I looked into higher apprenticeships, and Project Management seemed to suit me perfectly as an organiser at heart. The idea of being in the workplace and understanding how things actually work in practice was ideal – to get out of conventional education and start applying what I learned straight away, with the ability to see the resulting success immediately.

Looking back on your time as an apprentice, what was the single biggest learning or highlight?

I learned a vast amount from the apprenticeship, both in regards to the occupation itself, and how to be an effective team worker. There were too many highlights, but to pick one, I’d say the first project I delivered on my own, which was the Management Reporting project, using a data platform to show how branches were performing to KPIs. When this went live, we saw how much benefit it brought to the auction teams, and how they could use it to make the best decisions for their site. It was really great and affirming to see positive outputs from something I’d helped to deliver, and that end benefit is still one of my favourite parts of the job. It also gave me the confidence that I could develop on to manage bigger things with time and experience.

What would you say to a manager to convince them of the benefit of having an apprentice in their team?

Apprenticeships bring in someone who wholeheartedly wants to learn, and would hopefully show a great level of enthusiasm for picking things up and progressing as much as they can. Apprentices may also bring different perspectives, and have a willingness to challenge the status quo, and think wider about objectives and goals. They may not have prior experience of the business area, making them open-minded about best practice and the most effective ways of working. It also ensures that the existing team really get the basics right – and encourages proper induction, support processes, and formal progression frameworks.

If you were to recommend an apprenticeship to a team member, what would you say?

I would say that it was the best decision I made for my career development, in terms of progressing at pace – being thrown in at the deep end, and learning from taking things on and running with them. I would also say that it is an opportunity to get great support from the business, to take on lessons from all the stakeholders and people you work will work with, who have a wealth of experience and are willing to share their knowledge for you to apply in your own field.