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Catherine Frances Hill, 22, from Bryn-y-Baal, North Wales, works in Human Resources at Airbus Operations Ltd. in Broughton. Catherine was a junior manager who was fully funded by Airbus in the UK onto a forerunner of Chester’s innovative Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA). At just 18, she entered the four year Programme on her own as one of CWRS’s youngest ever students.

Gaining a first class BA Honours Degree in Leadership and Management (WBIS) she exemplified qualities which illustrated why Airbus had initially selected her straight from school as a commercial apprentice. Her assignment projects were all workplace related. This culminated in a final work based project that proposed, researched and evaluated Airbus’ decision to introduce flexible-working for future second and third year undergraduate Apprentices at the Broughton Facility. This, in turn, has now enabled Catherine to secure a full-time role within Airbus’ Human Resources department.

Catherine said: “I chose this course as I felt it corresponded with my strengths and aptitude for business and interacting with people. The programme involved a combination of work-based learning and theoretical study through completing a degree. I completed various work placements within Human Resources and the wider business, such as Recruitment, Payroll, in addition to working as a HR Business Partner, allowing me to gain a holistic view of the business. Such experiences have enabled me to gain valuable work experience, and develop the desired knowledge, skills and behaviours, to understand how different functional areas are interrelated.”

Catherine said that studying alone could sometimes be a challenge, but by discussing her studies with her work colleagues, she was able to benefit from their experience and also gain ideas for her final project and how it could benefit her workplace.

She said: “One project I initiated and led as part of my final degree module was the Flexible Working for Apprentices project. I firstly carried out focus groups with Apprentices who provided some constructive feedback regarding our fixed working hours of 07:45 – 16:00. I then presented this feedback to Early Careers Management and it was agreed for us to carry out a trial of flexible working. As the trial was successful, the deployment of Flexible Working for Apprentices has been rolled out as a permanent change.”

“This project was beneficial for the business as it increased our competitiveness and aligned with the company’s vision of empowering employees, fostering greater autonomy and accountability. Additionally, it was beneficial for my development in understanding stakeholder management, the importance of communication, and exercising management and leadership skills. It made an impact and made a difference!”

“As part of my studies, I also attained a NVQ and ILM qualification in Leadership and Management.  A qualification is a means to an end, not an end in itself. By developing knowledge, skills and behaviours through studying, I have been able apply the learning in practice for tangible benefit, to add value to the business.”

“I am integrated into the HR department as a permanent employee, working in HR Transformation and Digital, involved in transnational missions including Organisation Management and Authorisations. In addition to my job role, I am a representative for Generation (Gen-A) Airbus, organising social activities for Interns, Graduates and Apprentices. One example is the launch of our Gen-A Language Club to make the most of the diversity we have within Airbus. Moreover, as a Charity Challenge Representative, I am involved in organising fundraising events; our Big Band Jam, involving various musical performances, raised over £1000 for Charity last year, and over £800 this year!”

Catherine is looking forward to gaining more experience in Human Resources both in Broughton and transnationally, and hopes to pursue a managerial or leadership position, coaching and developing people “as this where I get fulfilment! I believe in doing what I’m passionate about, I would encourage everyone to pursue a career they enjoy.”

“I believe that you get out what you put in, so the fact I made the most of opportunities, expanded my network and got involved in many projects enabled me to gain a lot of valuable experience.”

“Studying alongside working was challenging and it was often difficult to find a balance. I spent countless evenings and weekends studying, therefore self-discipline was particularly important. I’m now very glad I put all my efforts to achieve this. I would also like to thank my family and friends for all their support throughout my studies, they kept me motivated and supported me throughout.”

Paul McKie, Senior Lecturer in the University’s Centre for Work Related Studies, said: “Catherine was a model student from day one. She appreciated the academic challenge she had set herself, alongside the work expectations from her new employer, Airbus. Whilst her organisation was extremely supportive in aligning her work projects with her module assignments, she demonstrated huge commitment in meeting all of the deadlines set. She has set a great examples for her Airbus colleagues who are now part of subsequent cohorts based here at the University Chester. I am confident the programme has certainly helped to boost Catherine’s career within the Aerospace industry, and the team here within CWRS wish her well.”

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