Spotlight On… Enterprising Learner Matthew Bell

Matthew Bell is studying for a Foundation Degree in Business and Management at New College Durham, whilst also working full-time in the Co-op Food National Transport Department. With the Foundation Degree’s Innovation, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship modules being accredited by the IOEE, this month we caught up with Matthew to find out how he balances working and studying together, and his plans for a future in Logistics.

Matthew may only be 23, but he has shown signs of ambition, professionalism and work ethos of someone who has been in business for much longer. Matthew knows what he wants, and is prepared to work hard to get there. Matthew says:

“In terms of goals and where I see my career going? To be honest, I think I’ve almost planned a bit too far ahead! I want to go into some form of Logistics Management, and I’ve already scoped out a

long-distance learning opportunity with a Logistics Management Degree at the University of Lincoln. Eventually, after that, I’d like to get a Master’s degree. Logistics can open doors to lots of opportunities, and there are a lot of jobs in Saudi Arabia and Dubai in this field due to there being so many English construction companies out there, and they all need logistics connections for new buildings and railways etc. So I have big plans and I work hard, but I’m right at the beginning.”

Matthew began his career as a Business Admin Apprentice, working for a road marking and construction company, before taking on the role of Transport Administrator. After two years, he decided that he wanted some form of career progression and more responsibility, so began looking for other opportunities. When an opportunity arose at the Co-op Food National Transport Department for a Support Clerk, Matthew went for it, and it is this role that he now balances with his Foundation Degree. Matthew says:

“It’s full-time and full-on and I’m here five days a week. Logistics is essentially getting things from one place to another via complex supply chain management. Everything you buy is part of this, from a loaf of bread at the supermarket, to cars that have had intricate operations to get here from another country through shipping containers and international logistics management. The Co-op deals with a lot of fresh produce, which means performance is key due to deliveries being more time-sensitive and deadline-driven. If a fridge or freezer breaks on a wagon or gets delayed, that has an economic effect. This can be very challenging for the depots.

“My role entails producing management information on a daily basis for network-wide depots, and the primary metric we measure is delivery performance. In involves a lot of trend analysis and then looking at where cost savings can come from, for example, and then putting cost benefits in place. I’ll collate all of the relevant information between different systems and see the patterns and where there are positives or negatives, and then look at what action we need to take.”

Alongside his high-pressured job, Matthew is studying for his Foundation Degree in the evenings, attending classes on Monday and Wednesday nights and then working on his assignments at the weekends and in the evenings. However, Matthew is not fazed by his heavy workload. He says:

“It’s a big undertaking, but if you can take on this workload now it can set you up for the rest of your career. The part-time Foundation Degree is still only spread over two years, as it would be with

full-time study, so it’s still the same intensity, and it’s definitely a lot to take on.

“We have a variety of different modules and classes, but one of my personal favourites is PPD (Personal and Professional Development). Within this you learn so many transferable skills and how you can apply skills from your studies to the workplace and vice versa - so I can use skills from my full-time job and apply it to the course. We’ll also look at such things as the differences between managing and leading people. So, managing is seen as pretty much giving direction and maintaining performance, whereas leading is coming up with innovative ideas that can transform a team and impact results.”

As well as traditional classroom-based learning, Matthew’s Foundation Degree also includes practical hands-on teaching methods, which he has found to enhance his learning experience. One example of this would be the Business Finance module he took this year, where students undertook a case study and had to operate as though they were the hypothetical Bank of Durham or Newcastle. Matthew says:

“We had to look at a ‘fictional’ company’s financial performance over two years and then make a judgement call on whether it would be able to attract potential investors, or whether a bank loan would be sufficient. You learn a lot by turning the situation on its head and looking at it from the bank’s perspective, as opposed to the new business’.”

Matthew also feels that the experience of working alongside students with different career goals to himself works to his advantage, as he explains:

“It’s really interesting from my perspective, as it opens your eyes to different industries, seeing students aspiring to different lines of work and different career opportunities. Actually, that’s something I’ve learnt in my career and studies so far - to take the time to learn and observe from your peers, be they fellow students or colleagues, and that’s part of my personal approach to innovation.

“Something I’ve realised about myself is that when I start something new I get so excited about getting the ball rolling that I forget to slow down and step back and take everything in - but I’ve adapted and learnt from my mistakes, and being able to do that is a lesson in itself. For me, innovation is all about observing, being strategic, analysing your position and coming up with the correct solution that will benefit team and company, and not just you. The way I see innovation is that it’s very much a collective experience, and that’s something I’ll take with me through every stage of my career.”

To find out more about IOEE Academy, New College Durham, visit the website at