Karen Brown has a busy career as both the Office Manager and PA to the Director at Growth Lancashire Limited; a company owned by several Lancashire local authorities to aid business and economic development across the county. Through Boost Business Lancashire’s Growth Hub, Karen has recently completed her Level 7 Diploma in Professional Business and Enterprise Support Services, which is accredited by SFEDI. This month we caught up with Karen to discuss how the course has impacted her professional performance and given her a newfound confidence in her job role.
Growth Lancashire is on a mission: to grow jobs, prosperity and skills across the whole county. Over the last three years the company has supported thousands of businesses, created over 4,000 jobs, provided £12m in direct grant support, and has helped over 1,000 start-up businesses get off the ground.
Last year, Lancashire County Council sought to engage with a partner to deliver fully-accredited business support and training that would help numerous businesses to grow and thrive in the local area, which led them to unite with Boost. Together, they delivered learning and skills development programmes that would add further value to employees’ wealth of knowledge and expertise, enhance their understanding of their roles, and equip them with the skills and tools they need to advise businesses and get the best results.
The Level 7 Diploma in Professional Business and Enterprise Support Services is a demanding course. It requires a significant investment of time and dedication, but Karen was determined to throw herself into the studying, develop her professional skills, and get a higher industry qualification. Karen says:
“I already had a Level 5 Diploma in Management, so when Lancashire County Council offered me the chance to get a further qualification, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to take my role to the next level. It was always going to be hard work, but I wanted to develop my skill set and my confidence within the role, and gaining a higher qualification whilst doing that adds that extra stamp of credibility to the experience too.”
The Level 7 programme was made up of a number of workshops that were supported by self-directed learning, covering such elements as developing the client relationship, analysing support needs, accessing different forms of business and enterprise support, developing skills as a Business Support Professional, and reflecting upon your own knowledge, skills and learning. There was a great deal of theory to learn, and assessments mostly took the form of ‘mini dissertations’, and Karen tells us about the challenges of juggling a heavy workload with an already full working life:
“There were so many hours - about 150 in total – this wasn’t a little extra qualification you do on top of work, it was a real commitment. There were a number of group workshops for hands-on learning, but they laid the foundations for you and then you went away to build on what you’d learnt in the class.
“There were seven pieces of written work to submit, like ‘mini dissertations’. Each was around 10,000 words on a specific topic, so there was a lot of research and theory and a lot of information to take in and soak up – and yes, this is on top of an already busy day job!
“It is a big undertaking, there’s no doubt about it, and you inevitably have to do a lot of the work in the evenings and at the weekend, so you do have to be incredibly dedicated and focused to get that work-life-balance. However, whilst it was hard work, it was very enjoyable work too. You know that you’re learning things that you’re going to be able to use and implement immediately, so it’s not a qualification that’s going to sit on the shelf. It was challenging and I’m very glad that I did it – but I’m also very glad that the studying part is over and I can get on with using it now!”
Karen is already seeing the effects of her new Level 7 Diploma in the workplace, and is even considering undertaking further professional qualifications in the future. Karen says: “I’m already seeing the benefits of the diploma in my day-to-day role, especially when it comes to bringing added value to the clients out there. The client is getting someone who absolutely knows what they’re talking about, who fully understands everything about the field they’re working in, and who has the knowledge to impart and the skills and tools to do so. I was certainly capable in my role beforehand, but whilst the diploma has taught me some new skills, it has also really enhanced things I already knew. Certain elements on my job just needed to be highlighted or theorised, to give that authority that you should be doing what you’re already doing, and I feel more confident having the qualification to back up my knowledge and abilities - I now have the theory to marry up with my experience.
“As a result of gaining this Diploma, there is also the potential to study further and turn this Level 7 Diploma into a full Master’s qualification. For now, I just want to concentrate on implementing what I’ve learnt into my current role - but never say never!”