Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week 2021

As part of National Apprenticeship Week (NAW21), we are celebrating SMS employees who have been supported on their journeys of professional development, and who are now seeing their careers and working lives benefit as a result.

Taking place between 8 and 14 February 2021, NAW21 aims to encourage everyone to consider how apprenticeships help individuals to build the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career.

The 14th annual week-long celebration showcases the impact that further learning can have not just on individuals, but on wider businesses, and whole communities. In the case study below, Carla Thomas, Fleet Team Leader at SMS’s Doncaster (Icon) office – tells us all about her ongoing Level 3 Chartered Management Institute Team Leader qualification.

Carla – who was recently given a “Highly Commended” award by her course provider Intec – describes her apprenticeship experience and how it has helped her become a better mentor, leader and person.

apprenticeship week

Case study:

Carla Thomas, Fleet Team Leader at SMS
Studying Chartered Management Institute Team Leader (Level 3) qualification  

Having started my career in a call centre as a customer services advisor, and then later progressing to supervisor and trainer, communicating and mentoring are skills that I’ve been able to gradually develop over the course of my career so far. Though these are skills that I’ve mostly gained through ‘on-the-job’ experience, they weren’t necessarily areas of knowledge and expertise which I’d pursued through a recognised qualification.

After my call centre days, I joined SMS firstly as part of the operations team. This required me to liaise every day with customers to plan and book engineering jobs, before I then later moved over to our fleet team as an administrator. Though this shifted me to more of an internal-facing role in terms of dealing with and organising our engineers and their vehicular needs, I was still able to use those core communication skills that I’d developed as a client-facing operative. After all, dealing with people is essentially the same principle, whether they are internal or external customers.

When the opportunity arose to become a Fleet Team Leader, I was really keen to show my leadership and management credentials. My line manager, Yvonne, suggested it would be a good idea to consider doing a Team Leader qualification to really formalise some of the skills I’d learned previously and to support me in making the transition to a more senior role. I didn’t really have to think twice about it, and I’m so happy Yvonne Cannon suggested the course and that the company was able to facilitate my development in this way.

I decided to do my Team Leader apprenticeship with Intec Business Colleges, who have been absolutely fantastic. Particularly my tutor Emma, who’s been so supportive and instrumental in my learning and keeping me motivated. The course, which is designed for supervisory or first-line managers, has really given me the knowledge I needed to improve my leadership qualities and other practical skills like project and resource management. Overall, it’s made me much more self-aware about how I communicate, and the need for adaptability and flexibility in management styles depending on the situation you are in.

Though the course has been challenging so far, and there has been a fair bit of study needed in my own time, it’s been incredibly rewarding. I’m yet to finish the apprenticeship, but I’m already seeing a world of difference in my development. It’s given me a great respect and recognition for the learning process and the advantages of really applying yourself to something. Ultimately, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and just want to do things to the very best of my ability. This apprenticeship is really helping me to achieve that goal professionally, as well as offering greater chances of career progression.

I was in complete shock when I found out that my tutor had put me forward for Intec’s ‘Apprentice of the Year Award’, especially as I’m still to complete my qualification! It was a lovely surprise, and even though I didn’t win, I was really honoured to receive a ‘Special Commendation’ prize. Intec’s Managing Director even personally emailed to congratulate me on my commendation, which I thought was a really nice touch.

For anyone thinking about further study to help with your career, I would say go for it if you can! It’s an amazing opportunity. You will feel yourself grow as a person and as a professional. Learning doesn’t just help develop you and your own potential; it can also help inspire and develop those around you too. That’s the best part!

Find out more about National Apprenticeship Week 2021