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Karen Ceesay - Level 7 Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship

Karen Ceesay, 48, has seen two promotions since completing her apprenticeship. Working in the healthcare sector, Karen has lead on projects such as her organisation’s response to COVID. Two of her favourite things about the apprenticeship are meeting people “who will be friends for life” and being able to apply her learnings directly to her organisation. Read more to find out the impact the apprenticeship has had on Karen, her career, and the organisation she works for.

Why did you choose to do the Senior Leader apprenticeship?

"Having just finished a two-year secondment, I had reached a crossroads in my career and was unsure in terms of my next career move. I knew that I was looking for my next challenge as I felt I had grown out of my permanent role and realised that I had a desire to continue my development journey.

Following discussions with my manager, we agreed that I should look at a Master’s level qualification as this would support my personal and professional development. Within my secondment role, I had worked with senior leaders from across a range of organisations and recognised that I wanted to build confidence in this area so the Level 7 Senior Leader apprenticeship fully met my needs. Furthermore, this would deliver the benefits of providing me with a formal academic qualification (MBA), a professional registration and recognition via a professional body (CMI), and was funded via the apprenticeship levy."

Why did you choose NBS? What stands out about NBS and NTU?

"I work within the Nottinghamshire health and care system and, as part of this work, was aware of the fantastic work which NTU leads.  This meant that NTU was my first choice and I was delighted when the syllabus and learning experience offered aligned to my needs.

The overall experience delivered via NBS and NTU was exceptional and despite being a mature student, the right balance was created in terms of providing me with the student experience and recognising that my learning was delivered alongside a professional role. Everything was person centred and it was evident that we had an opportunity to provide feedback to ensure that we maximised our time as a learner."

I met some fantastic people on the apprenticeship who will be friends for life. We walked into the first day of the course as strangers but over the duration of the course we gained mutual understanding and respect through our shared experience.

How do you believe this apprenticeship will affect both your current job role and future career?

"The apprenticeship has already had a positive outcome on my career. During the final stages of the apprenticeship, I was privileged to lead on the organisational response to the COVID programme and work side by side with Executive colleagues. As part of this, I was able to demonstrate and enhance my skills, knowledge and behaviours to benefit our workforce and patients and, as a result of the impact I made, I secured a promotion to Associate Director of Workforce Transformation.

However, the learning from the apprenticeship continued after the course. I had developed an ability and passion for working at a strategic level and successfully secured a further promotion at a much a larger healthcare organisation which has allowed me to continue with my personal and professional development. I truly believe that I would not be in the privileged position I am in today if I hadn’t undertaken the course. It has allowed me to believe in myself and my ability and use my leadership skills to make a difference."

How have you balanced studying alongside your professional role? How have you found the support from your employer?

"The level of commitment to the EMBA cannot be underestimated but I went into this knowing that there would need to be some trade-offs on my part if I wanted to succeed.

From my perspective, I found that there was a great deal of overlap between the apprenticeship and my professional role. This helped me enormously, as rather than operating as discreet elements I was often able to apply a different lens (academic and professional) to the same thing e.g., introduction of academic tools and theories to the workplace and using real-world examples in my critical analysis against the EMBA syllabus.

My employer was a key enabler in the completion of my apprenticeship.  My manager fully supported me throughout the journey and gave me ample opportunities to apply the learning and develop my professional ability via a range of ‘off the job’ activities from Board to Ward level.  The employer recognised the value of the three-way relationship and I have been able to continue to give something back by being a mentor for other staff undertaking similar learning."

The teaching and support staff have contributed to my positive experience throughout the apprenticeship. They are knowledgeable, responsive and it is clear that our success is at the core of everything they do.

What skills and experience have you gained as part of this apprenticeship? Has there been anything that you were not expecting?

"The apprenticeship has provided me with an ability to work and think through a strategic lens and, as a result of working alongside a range of students from across different sectors, I now look at best practice outside of the area I operate in. There has also been a change in the way I think and behave. I feel that this happened naturally as the course progressed but I am now much more mature in terms of my behaviours and my ability to influence at a senior level. I have gained the ability to triangulate my thinking and operate strategically and have an air of bravery when striving to do the right thing, which wasn’t there at the start of my learning.

I started the apprenticeship anxious about being able to demonstrate learning at the appropriate level so one thing I was not expecting was being awarded the Dean’s Award for academic excellence. This gave me a great deal of personal pride and validated the overall experience and the effort I had made to take full advantage of this fantastic opportunity."

What advice would you give to someone applying or looking to study the Senior Leader apprenticeship?

"My advice would be to take full advantage of an amazing opportunity. As daunting as it may feel in the early stages you are never alone and will be supported by your fellow students, your organisation and the University.

Whilst some people don’t realise it during the course, it is an experience you won’t forget and you will come out of this feeling proud of what you have achieved and how much you have grown from both a personal and professional perspective."

To learn more about our apprenticeship courses, please contact apprenticeships@ntu.ac.uk.

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