1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
As a member of the supply chain development, delivery and control team, my role is to assist with the control of our supply chain managers who use our framework of tools and processes to accurately report on their initiatives and day to day work with suppliers. This framework is continually improved to deliver efficiencies and higher quality outputs, and resolve any problems that arise due to processes lacking robustness.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I have learned legal knowledge of how contracts are structured, and what the key language means, which helps with my work. Lean skills (Fishbone/Ishikawa), 5 rights, and SMART objective techniques are all reinforced by the course and these can be applied to me current role of process development, delivery and control.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
It has been well-balanced, with a lot of my work counting towards the apprenticeship experience hours, and the course material is well written and explained by tutors who are very knowledgeable and engaging in their teaching style. The material is broadly applicable to my work, so as an apprenticeship, it always feels like I'm learning useful hard skills that I can apply, which is a priority for me.
4. How well organised/structured is your programme?
The course is very well structured, the organisers use the online OneFile portal to manage our workload and track our progress. Everything is accessible, and the supporting work (email communications, course textbooks) are all delivered in good time, and give us the information we need. The tutors are also experienced in helping us to achieve our goals, and guide us to keep our focus on areas we need to develop, to meet all of the course learning objectives.
5. How much support do you receive from your employer?
Our employer originally encouraged several members of our team (including me) to sign up to the apprenticeship, and our team managers have included the course progress and experience discussion in our regular 'one-to-one' personal development sessions. My manager also attends my fairly regular face to face meetings with my SRCC course tutor, and takes agreed actions to track via my one-to-ones.
6. How much support do you receive from your training provider when working towards your qualifications?
Each of the five modules we have sat for the Level 4 Diploma have incorporated what I believe are Ofsted-mandated past-paper exercises. This work is issued via OneFile, and are targeted to be completed at regular intervals, soon after the content is taught. The tutors marks these and email us detailed feedback, especially if there are areas that need revisiting. Likewise, all work we submit is assessed this way, and are discussed as part of our meetings and phone calls with the training provider. These occur on a roughly 3-monthly basis, yet the bi-weekly tutorial sessions at the Warrington teaching centre (on weekdays) are the most important forum for support, as we can raise questions as the material is presented to us.
7. How well do you feel that your qualification (through your training provider) helps you to perform better in your role?
The confidence in the use of the taught hard skills has really helped. I entered the insurance industry three years ago, with only small business knowledge of supplier management (low value, often very face to face, and conducted very differently to a large organisation like Co-op Insurance). As a consequence of this, I felt unable to lead in any areas of work as my skills were not at the right level to meet the needs of the business.
8. Are there extra-curricular activities to get involved in at your work? (For example, any social activities, sports teams, or even professional networking events.)
Yes, there are all of the above. In terms of social activities, there are inter-departmental sports opportunities (football, climbing, etc), also charity work and other community assistance programmes are available, as part of our annual optional objectives. Socially, there are things like summer barbecues and payday drinks, team meals for birthdays, and after-work refreshments. Professional networking is encouraged at the Co-op as well, to encourage cross-functional teams, events are regularly held for people to make new connections, rather than just via LinkedIn!
9a. Would you recommend Co-op to a friend?
The atmosphere at the company is wildly different to other profit-absolutist companies that I have previously worked at. The focus of the company is on lean efficiency, and ensuring a good customer journey which demands the staff have good communication skills and a positive working relationship. To achieve this, we foster close working relationships and cross-functional experience transfers in continuous improvement projects. Other companies tend to be less encouraging to staff, and small firms in particular can act more dictatorially, with less empathy for colleague needs, leading to a less productive, negative environment.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Co-op?
Demonstrate your experience working in teams, giving examples of where you have 'stuck your neck out' and made sure the company does the right thing for the customer, and behaves ethically to achieve this. The Co-op values principled people, especially in insurance, and will recognise diligent and good-natured people in its selection. A key area is communication, so being clear and concise in your points is always going to go down well here, as is being personable and honest.
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