This was my assumption before deciding to start a project management apprenticeship in 2020 at the grand age of 32.
Back in 2019, I had just started a new role as a Project Officer at Solent NHS Trust. This was my first time venturing into the world of project management. I had previous roles where I managed small projects, but nothing that I would class as true project management which meant that I was a bit green when it came to fully understanding the project management lifecycle.
Despite undertaking Prince 2 Foundation and another online project management course before starting my new role, I jumped at the chance to undertake the project management apprenticeship and the opportunity to get another degree qualification. I was drawn to the possibility of applying the apprenticeship to my role and gaining knowledge that I could harness and use in my work.
For me, the decision to start the apprenticeship wasn't an easy one. I already had a high workload, a husband and a child who was just starting Year 1 at school to consider. That's why it's really important that you weigh up your commitments at home and at work because there will be points during the apprenticeship where your work life balance isn't the best.
During the first year of the apprenticeship, I found getting back into studying really challenging and initially, I tried to write assignments late at night. This works really well when you've got children that need to go to bed but I realised that I needed more sleep to be able to function, so I quickly changed my study routine to suit my style of learning.
Tip 1: check out the course timetable and assignment deadlines well in advance. This will help you to plan your study and revision time. You may need to start assignments and revision earlier so that you don't have to burn the midnight oil and this ensures you can take regular breaks, which really does help you to be more productive. I also found the learning and studying style that best suited me, by taking some free online questionnaires such as Myers Briggs and the VARK questionnaire. These can be helpful so that you can adapt your studying to suit your needs.
I also found that I wasn't the only one on the course that was older and had children, which was comforting, but don't let this commonality limit your networking.
Tip 2: Try to interact with students from different organisations that you wouldn't normally be drawn to. Having a breadth of knowledge and different skills is beneficial when undertaking group assignments, and for networking, which can help with future plans to progress your career.
Talking about networking, on top of the apprenticeship and my job, I also began volunteering with the APM's women in project management specific interest group (WiPM SIG).
Tip 3: volunteering with APM whilst doing your apprenticeship is a great way to network, boost your CV and to gain further project management knowledge. Volunteering is flexible so it can fit around your apprenticeship schedule, but don't overstretch yourself.
My apprenticeship wasn't all plain sailing and there were times when I wasn't sure that I would make it to the end, but I highly recommend persevering with it because being able to bring my son to my graduation was a very proud moment, and he finally understood what all the hard work was leading to.
Tip 4: make use of the universities pastoral care, course leaders and the apprenticeship team within your own organisation. They can really assist if you are struggling with workload, sickness or mental health challenges. Working and studying can be stressful so don't be afraid to ask for help.
Apprenticeships are a great way to combine study and work whether you’re new to project management or want to update your knowledge and skills.
Overall, my apprenticeship journey was challenging but worthwhile and it proves that being older and having other commitments doesn't preclude you from undertaking further studies, no matter how old you are.
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