For #AskAnApprentice, we spoke to Amy Wills, Centre Director from Busy Bees Biggleswade Saxon Centre. She’s recently completed her Operations/Departmental Manager Level 5 Apprenticeship, so we caught up with her to see how she got on:
Hi, I’m Amy, I’m a Centre Director at Busy Bees Biggleswade Saxon Centre. I’ve been in post for the past 18 months however I started in Busy Bees in 2014. I started at Busy Bees as zero-hour relief and have worked my way up from there. It’s been quite a journey for me, I did my level 3 management whilst I was here and have just completed my Level 5 Operations/Departmental Manager Apprenticeship.
What made you want to pursue a higher-level apprenticeship?
I just knew there was still so much more for me to learn. Especially from a business point of view, the level 3 was fantastic and I took a lot from a childcare point of view, I think it’s fantastic for Room Managers to have that level 3 in Management, but I knew that I wanted to push myself further, my business knowledge and understanding of operations, and I knew the Level 5 ODM would cover that and give me the knowledge and understanding that I wanted.
How has Busy Bees Education and Training Supported You Whilst you’ve been on your Apprenticeship?
Amazingly. I did my level three childcare through a completely different training and education academy and the difference in support between them and Busy Bees was like chalk and cheese. With Busy Bees Education and Training, I know that I could always get on the phone and speak to my assessor, I could send her a message on one file, I could email her and I know she would make me feel as if I was her priority. She would make me feel like I was her only learner. She was very open, very honest, and would put me straight if I needed to be put straight. I've never known that level of support anywhere else.
As well as that, I had constant support with regards to the level two functional skills too, as a South African, I don't have a Level two equivalent, I don't have GCSEs. I also did my functional skills through Busy Bees Education and Training, the resources we had on offer were amazing. I'm not a fan of math, but I was able to do what I needed to do to get my level two functional skills in math. So I just think the resources available make it a really big open community where you know that if you've got a problem, there will be an avenue of support somewhere.
What new skills have you been able to take to your nursery?
Something that I learned very quickly was time management, which I explained to Cheryl during my EPA. It wasn't my greatest avenue, but it was something that I could work on better. The level 5 doesn't give you time to dawdle, doesn't give you time to deviate. So it's definitely taught me how to manage my time to manage projects better. It's taught me about delegation. I've been able to open up my level five to my senior staff, so my, my room managers and my assistant director, to be able to show them “this is what I've learned. This is how we can utilize it at nursery and this is for the betterment of yourself” I don't just want to do things for the family or for the children, It's got to include my staff team. So, I've said previously that if I look after my staff team, I know that my staff are going to look after the families and the children. I've also had to learn to be resilient as I’ve had to do my learning during the pandemic, it’s been great knowing, that despite all the stuff going on in the world I have still been resilient enough to get my work done, I’ve had a fantastic support network, and it’s great that I’m able to take my skills back to the nursery I work in.
How has your relationship with Stakeholders improved during your apprenticeship? We hear you’ve been speaking to Busy Bees Australia about best practice!
I always want my children and my staff to have the best experience possible, and I know that I have certain experiences that I could share with my staff team or my families, or my children. Thinking about this, I just thought to myself, How could I bring the world to Saxon centre? Biggleswade is such a small town, but we're so heavy with a wealth of other cultures and backgrounds that come to our centre.
I thought, what is the complete opposite of England? My first thought is that it would be a very warm, dry country, and that would be Australia. It’s a completely different part of the world. It's in a separate hemisphere. They would do things similarly to us, but then do things quite differently. I thought “what makes that work? Why does that work for Australia and what works for England?” It’s been a really great community connection to have, Busy Bees has nurseries all over the globe, We are all one big family. Let's see what's out there. Let's see who we can connect with, who we can talk to and what we learn from each other and how we can implement our best practice there, but also how we can take on their best practice here. So I reached out to Jenny Shaw from the team because I know she has good connections with the busy bees globally, and she connected with a few of the quality leaders in Australia so that we could share best practice.
How was preparing for your End Point Assessment?
Not as scary as what people imagine or what people perceive it to be. Cheryl was lovely. I'd never met her before, but she was just a friendly face at the end of my computer screen. She was so open, so warm, and welcoming. It was just like a really calm environment, and it made me really excited to do my final stage, which was my end point assessment. It was just such a positive meeting. I was able to share what had worked well for me, what hadn't gone so well, and how I learned and how I developed as a person and as a professional. Having that one-to-one time really prepared me for my end point assessment. I entered that meeting, so excited, so eager to share everything that I had learned and everything that I did. I had a really good rapport with Cheryl and because we had built that relationship so quickly because she's such a calm kind, person, just eager to help.
How did you find your End Point Assessment?
I went to the End Point Assessment, feeling confident, knowing that I knew what I was talking about, that I had that knowledge behind me to answer any questions that she came that she might have come up with. We had a discussion on a continuous professional development task that I did in February 2020, that was a while ago, but because I had done those things, I was ready for the EPA. There were no hiccups. We had a few technical difficulties, but that didn't put me off. That didn't make me feel nervous or worried about how I was going to present myself. I loved it. I felt as if I was on a soapbox and I could sing all of the praises of my staff team and the centre about how I've developed from just being a level three with a diploma to actually being a level 5 Centre Director. This is me, I'm deserving of this title, this is what I've learned, this is how I'm going to utilize it to move my centre forward. This is how I'm going to carry on and achieve the best. It was a great experience to be able to showcase what I’ve learned.
What would you say to anyone wanting to do a higher-level apprenticeship?
Absolutely. Go for it. It's not always going to be easy, but I think that's what makes it worth it. To know that you've gone through a bit of hardship to get to where you are makes it worth it. Knowing that you've got that support behind you with your development coach, you've got the resources behind you, you've got avenues of support that make those hardships not seem that hard. At the end of the day that you can say to yourself, I did that, I managed to do that. I can do it again and anyone can do it.
To find out more about the apprenticeships we offer, including our Operations/Departmental Manager, and our brand new Early Years Lead Practitioner Level 5 Apprenticeship click here.
Keep an eye on our social media for more stories from National Apprenticeship Week 2022.