Apprentice Case Study: Karen at STFC

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I’m Karen, I’m in my late 30s, and I have a demanding but amazing toddler. I also have a fairly senior full-time job as the STFC Hartree Centre’s Head of Impact AND I’m an APPRENTICE.

I don’t fit the vision that I’ve always had of apprentices being young people at the very start of their career journeys. I am one of a growing number of ‘professional’ people who are either changing careers or taking on new responsibilities at work (in my case both) which need me to learn new skills.

I started a Level 4 Project Management Associate Apprenticeship in July, and my path to starting that isn’t what you’d ordinarily expect. I left university with a degree in marketing and public relations and have worked in related jobs at several organisations, working my way up from assistant to managing a communications team at the STFC Hartree Centre.

I then went on maternity leave, and when I came back, I had the opportunity to change direction; taking my transferrable skills in stakeholder management and communication and using them to help evidence to Government why they should fund the research and innovation that we do (we help UK organisations to use supercomputers, big data and artificial intelligence to improve what they do and create new products/services). It was a huge change, and it meant that I have had to establish new ways of working and new processes that have not been done in the Centre before.

The more I grew into my role, the more I realised that I needed to run this big, new and exciting area of work as a project. There was one problem: despite being a really organised person, I’m a novice at project management, and things felt a bit chaotic. I needed a more structured way of thinking and learning this new craft – and that was when I heard that my organisation offered professional apprenticeships. I’m only in the early stages of it, but it has been awesome to really get my brain into ‘learning’ mode again and challenge myself and broaden my career horizons. Wherever you are in your career, an Apprenticeship could make a big difference.