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Peter Remon

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Why it’s not too late to start your apprenticeship


This week marks the 16th annual National Apprenticeship Week – a celebration which shines a spotlight on the benefits such schemes can bring to businesses, to apprentice learners and to the wider UK economy.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Skills for Life”, focusing both on the development of new skills from which to build a career, and the undeniable fact that the realities of our working lives are rapidly changing, as new technologies become ever more present across almost every industry, and long-term global challenges such as climate change impact upon the nature of how we must work throughout our careers.

More and more, professionals are turning to apprenticeships later in their careers to develop new competencies, expand their thinking or even create a bridge into a new profession. Schemes such as the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, have helped to make this a reality, not only by taking the pressure of education funding away from those who desire to learn (and their employers!) but also by widening the market for training programmes which can pair the benefits of the levy with high-quality learning experiences.

For many, returning ton education later in life can come with some significant burden when considering the costs and time commitment required. However, the Levy has helped some learners to overcome some of these challenges.

One such learner is Heather Peebles, Head of Affiliate Partnerships at Reward Gateway – an employee benefits provider, for which she has worked for the past eight years – and a current participant of the Imperial College and Corndel Executive Development Programme. The programme, provided in partnership by Imperial College Business School and Corndel, gives learners a rare opportunity to benefit from the academic expertise of a world-leading university and to team this with the practical, applicable vocational training, without shouldering the costs.

Here, we speak to Heather about her reasons for pursuing an apprenticeship, the realities of heading back to the classroom, and the challenges of juggling training alongside her day-to-day responsibilities…


Tell us about yourself and your work.

I moved to London just over ten years ago, after travelling around South America, and started work in a marketing and communications role for an employee benefits provider. Since then, I’ve worked for two companies within the reward and loyalty space and now represent the Publisher Board as a co-founder, which challenges the current standards within the affiliate industry and promotes best practices. I’ve always had an interest in building brand partnerships and to be able to do this whilst saving people money on their everyday purchases and improving their wellbeing makes it all the more sweeter.


What encouraged you to pursue further education?

No matter your age, gender or background, I think it’s important to continue to learn and develop yourself personally and professionally. I didn’t necessarily envisage being a student again, however, having been in a role where I have been promoted from entry-level to now head of the department, I felt the need to put some theory behind the practice. This would increase my confidence when battling imposter syndrome and stop me from questioning whether I have the right to be where I am, doing what I do.


Were you aware of the Levy before you began looking into further education? Did it influence your decision on where and what, to study?

I wasn’t aware of the apprenticeship levy so I was pleasantly surprised when our People team shared the opportunity for us to enrol on the Imperial College and Corndel Executive Development Programme. Having had basic training in leadership, it was a natural progression to take this next step, safe in the comfort that my professional growth is valued by my company and I don’t have the financial worry of supporting it.


What support did you receive from your employer?

My company are really supportive of me doing the course and has offered frequent “pod” meetings so we can talk about the module topics and share experiences to bring the learning to life. It’s also helpful that we have formed a group channel where we can keep track of our progress and offer support and words of encouragement should anyone be falling behind on their submissions.


What were your expectations ahead of the programme? Have they been met?

The programme is living up to my expectations and the module topics have been so varied, but more importantly, apply to my role and where I want to further develop my knowledge. So far, I’ve found it so interesting and I’m excited to see what more is in store throughout the remainder of the course.

A real benefit for me is having a tutor who is on hand to answer my questions, offer guidance and have regular one-to-ones, along with my work colleagues who are also doing the course and who motivate me and vice versa. We have “study buddies” where we can join up with fellow participants at a similar progress level and share ideas to help move each other along. It’s really cemented relationships internally and improved the communication across departments, a community where we’re all in this together!

The biggest challenge has been time and dedicating allotted study periods to complete modules, especially during our busiest peak with Black Friday and Christmas-led promotions. I need to minimise distractions and set expectations internally otherwise it will impact me heavily further down the line and take the enjoyment out of doing the course.


What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed in yourself as a result of the programme?

I’m already applying my newfound knowledge and some of the theoretical models in my day-to-day work, whether it’s promoting the use of candid feedback as a valuable tool in creating an engaged workforce or building upon my personal brand and leading by example. I’ve certainly involved my team a lot more in key decision-making so they’re more invested in the end-to-end product and feel a part of its wider success.


In your opinion, what opportunities does the Levy offer to UK industry – to companies like yours and to people in a similar circumstance to you?

The levy is a huge opportunity both for the individual and the employer. Learning and development can often be something which gets sidelined in an organisation due to time pressures and too much focus on the mission and the future of the business at the cost of its people. To have that mental stimulation and sense of purpose is detrimental to increasing engagement, and a happier workforce is more likely to result in better performance from that individual which increases the likelihood of that company being successful. This in turn will inspire people to work for that organisation based on having a good reputation. 


What would your advice be to somebody who wished to upskill themselves and were not aware of Levy support?

Speak to your HR/People team to gain a better understanding of the opportunities that are available to you within your organisation. Ask them about the levy and the possibility of enrolling on a course specific to an area you want to grow your knowledge base. If they’re unaware of the levy, share some information on the programme you wish to study, such as The Imperial College and Corndel Executive Development Programme along with the value this would bring both to you and the company without it costing them a thing! Priceless in more ways than one!

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