Flo Hanlon, an apprentice at Sellafield, spoke to us about her experience on the Project Management Degree Apprenticeship

Name: Flo Hanlon

Employer: Sellafield Ltd

Job Title: Gender Balance and Diversity Workstream Lead

    Florence Hanlon, Flo Hanlon Project Mgt Apprentice 2018-19   


"I was initially going to follow the traditional university route but this opportunity opened my eyes and gave me an insight into the different career pathways available. Project management applies to all industries and the diverse nature of the projects I work on shows how varied this type of career can be."

   

Project Manager Degree Apprenticeship

What are the main benefits of studying towards a project management qualification?
Being able to learn at work whilst completing my degree apprenticeship is a benefit which really stood out when I was considering what option was best for me – I enjoy a mixture of theoretical and practical learning, which is how a degree apprenticeship works.
This combination was a real benefit as I could use real life examples during my university assignments. I also felt confident referring back to the projects I was working on.
On a personal level, I was also able to maintain a healthy work life balance by completing my degree alongside my role at work. During my apprenticeship I developed more confidence and it opened up my thinking to consider new ideas and industry best practice. When I reflect back to the start of my apprenticeship I have more of a questioning attitude and I’m much more confident to speak up about things, which is definitely linked to the prior knowledge I have learnt through university.

What does your role in projects involve?
I started my degree apprenticeship in 2015 and became fully qualified in 2019. I currently work within the project improvements programme leading a small business change project. My project focuses on accelerating gender balance across project management functions. I’m currently working on benchmarking our current position and looking into the strategies to implement.
Although my role could be considered as something outside of the ‘traditional’ project arena, it still relies on project skills such as planning and resource management. One of the things I have learnt over the last six years is that projects come in all shapes and sizes – from construction to IT to business change, projects are delivered throughout the business.
Completing my degree apprenticeship has definitely given me a greater insight into Sellafield and how it operates.

What has been your career highlight to date?
Over the last six years I’ve learnt so much at Sellafield, and working in project management means no two days are the same! I would have to say that my personal highlight was being shortlisted for the Association for Project Management (APM) Graduate of the Year during their Festival of Education Awards. Being recognised on a national level was fantastic and it really gave me a confidence boost. It showed that working on a non-traditional project such as EDI and gender balance can have a massive impact on organisations and the wider industry. It has also provided me with the opportunity to Co-Chair the NDA Estate Gender Balance Group, as well as leading the ‘Recruit’ Workstream as part of our Enterprise-wide Gender Balance Group.

How has the University of Cumbria's Project Academy supported you?
I really enjoy being involved in academic work and through the Project Academy for Sellafield there has been a lot of opportunities to attend other courses. I completed the Baseline Scope Management course in 2020. This has provided me with a solid grounding and understanding of how to control the baseline scope of a project or programme, as well as providing me with transferrable skills that I can use in my role.
The majority of the course was delivered online due to the current situation with Coronavirus. The online delivery was really good; despite being online our lecturers kept the course interactive and there was lots of energy during lectures – by being so interactive it felt like I was in a real classroom. The whole team at the Project Academy are really helpful and efficient, nothing is too much trouble and they’re really knowledgeable about what offerings are available. The team at the Project Academy have also given brilliant support during Covid-19, especially reassuring people and helping us to prepare for the transition to onlinedelivery of courses.

What would you say to anyone considering starting a project management course/qualification?
I would say it’s never too late to consider project management, whether it’s an introductory course or a higher education opportunity – you should definitely go for it. Before I started my apprenticeship I had no prior engineering or technical experience, and I thought you needed that type of knowledge to work in project management. People with varied skills can work in projects: there are so many transferrable skills across different industries and sectors. Starting a career in projects is one of the best decisions I’ve made and I would recommend it to anyone.

Would you recommend the project management apprenticeship and the University of Cumbria's Project Academy to others?
I would definitely recommend the project management apprenticeship to anyone considering a career in project management, and there are lots of other options available for people who may be more experienced and considering a career change. The Project Academy has something available for everyone – the course offerings let you work outside your comfort zone and learn new skills.
I’m incredibly grateful: I was initially going to follow the traditional university route, but this opportunity opened my eyes and gave me an insight into the different career pathways available. Project management applies to all industries and the diverse nature of the projects I work on shows how varied this type of career can be.

 

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