Spotlight Learner: Zoe Eglin

Growth Lancashire Limited offers support and business expertise to aid economic development across the county. Zoe Eglin works as the company’s Principal Business Support Advisor, and is currently completing her SFEDI-accredited Level 7 Diploma in Professional Business and Enterprise Support Services, through Boost Business Lancashire’s Growth Hub. This month we chatted to Zoe about how she successfully balances the course with a full-time job and being a parent, and moving on to gain a full Master’s degree.

Zoe completed her first SFEDI qualification back in 2015, gaining a Level 4 Award in Understanding Business and Enterprise Support and Business Skills Support.

It was the first time she had studied since leaving college, and this realisation inspired Zoe to push herself even further, putting herself forward for the Level 7 Diploma last year. Zoe says:
“I hadn’t really done any training since I left college - you just get out of the habit as life changes. I’m 39 now and have a two year-old girl, and so I was already balancing my job with being a parent before I even took on additional studying. When I did my Level 4 qualification I was actually pregnant, and had to complete the course in a month before I was due to go on maternity leave. Then I came back to work and put myself forward to do this Level 7 qualification – I definitely don’t make things easy for myself!”

Growth Lancashire has been hugely successful on its mission to grow jobs, prosperity and skills across the county, having supported thousands of businesses, created over 4,000 jobs, provided £12m in grant support, and helping over 1,000 start-up businesses to launch over the last three years.

Last year Lancashire City Council decided to team up with a partner to deliver fully-accredited business support and training that would help numerous businesses to grow and thrive in the local area, and this 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 give them the skills and tools they needed to advise businesses to get the best results. Zoe is one of the employees who jumped at the opportunity to gain a new qualification. Zoe says: “I’ve definitely learnt new skills through this Level 7 Diploma, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult situations with clients. I’m working on Boost Growth Vouchers, which is essentially working on grants, applications and funding, and with money matters there are always challenging conversations to be had with clients, and I’ve learnt new skills for dealing with those sorts of things.

“However, where I really feel like I’ve benefited is in my confidence within my job role. I’ve now got a qualification that’s specifically job-related. I left school, went to college and then started work, and I’ve worked in this area for over 15 years now, with nothing to prove that I’m actually really good at what I do. It can be easy to doubt yourself sometimes without that confirmation, and having this qualification proves that I have the knowledge I thought I did by being assessed in that formal way. It’s definitely boosted my confidence in my job role.”

The Level 7 course took the shape of several workshops, which acted as the foundation for a significant body of self-directed learning. There was a great deal of research to undertake, a lot of theory to learn, and a lot of self-reflection using the workshop inputs. The assessments mostly took the form of study workbooks, with seven pieces of work to submit – each comprising of around 10,000 words related to a specific topic, including: 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 were also practical assessments that were tailored to your specific job role. Zoe says:
“Some people are out and about with clients in their job role, but in my position you are mainly dealing with clients on the phone, so there were observational assessments where somebody listened in to phone conversations and assessed how I dealt with different scenarios and situations. The course is difficult, but you’ve got to remember that you’re being assessed on elements of your role that you’ve been doing for a long time. Achieving the qualification at the end really does make you feel confident that you’re doing a great job.”

Now that Zoe is close to completing her Level 7 Diploma, she is looking to gain more qualifications to enhance her professional knowledge, skills and current position even further. Zoe says: “The course was hard work, but I really enjoyed it. I’m not only studying on top of a full-time job, but managing both of those things with being a mum to a little girl, and generally maintaining all of the elements of your personal life alongside your professional work. Now that I’ve finished the course, I do find myself lying in bed at night thinking, ‘oh, this is unusual - I don’t have to think about the million things to do tomorrow!’, but it hasn’t put me off. We’ve been offered the opportunity to continue studying and turn this qualification into a full Master’s, and I’m thinking that I might as well keep going – so no, I definitely don’t make things easier for myself!”