"If you can’t climb any further within your role, keep learning something new"

Tuesday 04th February 2020

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2020 (#NAW2020), Monday 3 - Sunday 9 February, South Western Railway (SWR) is profiling some of the apprentices it's training. Since the beginning of the franchise, nearly 200 members of SWR staff have been on an apprenticeship scheme. 

Here, Jenny writes about how becoming an apprentice at SWR has changed her life.

Who are you?

My name is Jenny Boyle, 36 (which is the new 21, right?), and I live in Harrow, London. My hobbies include cooking, listening to audiobooks, spending time with my family and travelling.

What apprenticeship scheme are you doing?
I’m doing the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) - a three-year degree - with the University of Portsmouth, which I began last August.


What is a typical day/week for you as an apprentice?

My role is very flexible and my line manager encourages me to create my own schedule. Usually, I can be found at Wimbledon Depot or Waterloo but every other Tuesday I’m attending the University of Portsmouth and studying from home on alternate Tuesday’s for my 20% off-the-job training.

During the recent strikes, I helped do fatigue checking for the contingency guards. It allowed me to meet loads of great people and even put faces to the name I’ve been emailing.

I tend to focus on whichever module we are doing at University and approach the relevant teams within SWR. For example, this term, I hope to spend a few days with the Marketing team to help me understand how they use marketing theories and measure the success of their campaigns. 
I have also approached the customer experience team to see if I can spend some time with them in order to put together a marketing plan to incorporate some mindfulness for both commuters and staff.

Also, I recently helped plan the apprentice’s team building event.

Why did you decide to apply for an apprenticeship scheme with SWR?
I was previously a training team leader for the British Red Cross but there was very limited room to progress in the role. My family have always said to me, “If you can’t climb any further within your role, keep learning something new”.

I really enjoyed managing a team in my previous role, but I didn’t think that I would be able to do an apprenticeship at my age. However, here I am, developing those management skills further and getting a degree at the same time.

I am not very academic and struggle in the classroom, so university hadn’t crossed my mind. I’m a kinaesthetic learner but I always feel more comfortable learning a new skill by having a go rather than the traditional classroom approach. I like the idea of going to University once a fortnight, but it does feel bizarre being a ‘student’ again after 20 years. I've also become the student representative recently

My tutors at University have been great and managed to facilitate a means test for my dyslexia and ADD. As a result, I was provided with a brand-new laptop with lots of assistive technology to help me when I am in the classroom and doing assignments.

What are you hoping to achieve once you’ve completed the scheme?
I took a pay cut to take this role, but with the qualification I will gain (fingers crossed) at the end of my apprenticeship, I’m hoping to earn a management position within the industry. 

What advice do you have for someone who wants to apply for an apprenticeship scheme?

Go for it, what have you got to lose?