Apprentices @ the Combined Authority: Alison Gillespie

Name of apprenticeship standard: Leadership
Level: 5
Duration: 2 years
Start date / end date: June 2020 to Junes 2022. 

Tell us a bit about your apprenticeship role

It’s a Level 5 apprenticeship in Leadership. I am studying part time over two years finishing in summer 2022, so almost there. It covers learning and skills development on a wide range of topics including developing people, self-awareness, business and financial management, organisational compliance and improving service delivery. Some areas are of more interest to me than others! It is tailored for public sector professionals which is great, so there is specific content on working in a political environment for example.

What made you want to do an apprenticeship?

I started out in the private sector and then voluntary sector, so I didn’t benefit from any formal early-career training in working in local government or the public sector. It has been beneficial to make time to learn and reflect on our role as an organisation that works in the interests of West Yorkshire residents and works with elected members.

I also wanted to build on my leadership skills, everyone leads in their own way, and I was keen to reflect on my approach, listen and learn and add some additional tools to my skill set to better enable me to support the staff that I lead and influence the partnerships I work in.

What advice would you give to someone considering an apprenticeship?

If you are ready to learn and to stretch yourself, I would go for it. I recommend talking to people that have followed a similar route and asking about their experience and it also helped me to talk to an external mentor about career development aspirations and how an apprenticeship could help meet my goals

How has the pandemic affected your experience of the apprenticeship?

The course started as the pandemic hit, it has been a real struggle to balance priorities with increased caring responsibilities and the regular nature of the course deadlines. We have only had one face-to-face workshop, the rest has been online. It took a while for the organisers to adjust to delivering online learning, but it does work and for me with two very young children and working reduced hours the time saving of participating remotely has been useful. What’s missing though is the ability to naturally build relationships with the other learners, I think we have missed out on that element of the course.


What have you enjoyed most about your apprenticeship?

Without doubt the part of the course that has energised me the most has been the learning sessions with Senior Leaders. We have met with Chief Executives and Directors from within our West Yorkshire partnership and from external organisations. Hearing a very Senior Leader speak openly about their career journey, what motivates them and their insight into their leadership style is so interesting and much more accessible than reading it in the course text.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I agree with the view that across all sectors we need to see increased diversity in a leadership context, both in terms of types of people represented in leadership roles but also in the styles of leadership that are valued. A training environment is a safe space to explore these issues with a group of peers and so has been a positive experience.