Success at Johnstons of Elgin with the Modern Apprenticeship in Management SCQF Level 7

 In Blog

It was a pleasure to catch-up with Kayleigh Thain, Health & Safety Co-ordinator at Johnstons of Elgin.   We talked a bit about her career to date, what she enjoys about her role and her recent experience working with the team at Polaris Learning on her Modern Apprenticeship in Management SCQF Level 7, awarded jointly with the Chartered Institute of Management.

I started by asking Kayleigh about how long she has been at Johnston’s of Elgin. I could quickly see that Kayleigh has a job that she loves in a company that has been a great support to her from day one.

Kayleigh started at Johnstons of Elgin straight from school over 6.5 years ago, after participating in a school’s interaction programme. During this programme she participated in activities at the Johnston’s of Elgin site, joined in site tours and spent some time in different departments.

Kayleigh had good qualifications and therefore lots of options open to her, and she knew that rather than going to university, she really wanted to get started on a career path with a good company.  She then saw a job advert for a Finishing Administrator and that set her on the journey that she is now on.

I asked Kayleigh what happened next:

“Once I joined Johnstons of Elgin, I spent a lot of time working with different managers as well as a variety of people in different roles on the shop floor.  This was a brilliant way to get to know the business, how it works and the people involved.

It also really helped that I shared an office with two managers, and I was able to regularly hear conversations about health and safety.  I quite quickly realised that this was an area that interested me and that I could relate well, and I was lucky enough to be able to do some training on health and safety and risk assessments.  I really enjoyed this and started to get more involved in the work on risk assessments within the Finishing Department where I was based while also keeping up-to-date on health and safety knowledge.”  

I was interested in how Kayleigh’s role then evolved:

“In November 2020, I became Health and Safety Co-ordinator and my role was then covering the whole site.  It was a brilliant move.  As I had been involved in health and safety for so long with the Finishing team, I had good experience for moving into this role.”

We then talked about Kayleigh’s current role, what is involved and the challenges:

“It is very varied.  I carry out risk assessments, COSHH assessments, internal and external audits to ensure compliance on site, give advice to different managers and employees, as well as carrying out investigations into accidents.

There can be challenges at time, as in any role.  Occasionally someone might not like change, and trying to get them on board with new ideas, procedures and different systems can be a bit harder.  However, since doing this Modern Apprenticeship and learning how to deal with these types of situations, I am finding it a lot easier.  The Modern Apprenticeship programme has helped immensely.”

This led us to talk about why Kayleigh decided to do this Modern Apprenticeship:

“My main motivation was to learn more about how to work with different types of people and to deal with different situations, as well as how to build relationships within the workplace to make sure people always have the confidence to talk to me about health and safety issues.”

We then discussed how Kayleigh found the overall qualification experience:

“PLUS (the online learning system) is very easy to navigate, the structure of the learning and assessment is good as well, very clear and well laid out.  I got a lot of tips from videos as well as different attachments which I could refer back to.

I learned a great deal from the focus on managing people and in particular, working with objectives, using listening skills and questioning skills and the wide variety of different approaches to deal with different situations.  The programme 100% met my expectations and requirements.

The whole structure and approach of the Modern Apprenticeship programme that Polaris Learning take, helped me think about a structured approach to systems generally, at work.  The content itself, such as how to make plans and use Personal Development Plans made me think about having more structure in how I approach things, perhaps making more plans and generally planning ahead more.  I really like spreadsheets and scheduling activities, and doing this course has helped me think about how I can apply these tools even more.”

I asked Kayleigh about the Operational Management Module of the programme.

“This module got me thinking about what I have in place already and reminded me of what is in place but I have forgotten about.  It has been an opportunity to step back, reflect and look for gaps in the resources and tools that we have as a business, and to think about who needs training and what training is missing in our organisation, from the perspective of my role.”

We discussed if there were any top tips that Kayleigh would share that she took from the learning:

“I would say to managers, do not panic, even when it might seem challenging at times. 

Everyone is different and you get to learn what someone is like by having an in-person conversation with them.  This is much better than just phoning or e-mailing.  So do not stress and if one way of communicating is not working, look for a different way that might work better for that particular person.   Make sure that you know what type of different communication is appropriate.

I also learnt that even when I am busy, it is still essential to prioritise people within the company. To give them time to raise any concerns or issues that they may have.  By making the time to see them, we can have the conversations that really matter and might otherwise be missed.”

Kayleigh is not in a management role yet but recognises that she is using what she learnt already because of the nature of her work.  Whether it is applying the skills in internal auditor meetings, shadowing auditors or working with accident investigators.  Kayleigh also feels that when the opportunity is there for her to manage people in the future, she is in a good position to take on that challenge and in the meantime, she is applying what she has learned every day in her current role.

In final reflections on her learning experience, Kayleigh shared:

“I would definitely recommend this Modern Apprenticeship qualification to others. 

It is something different and it put my skills to the test.  I learned a lot and I was also able to refresh knowledge that I forgot that I had.

It forces you to take time for yourself, and reflect and learn, and the Polaris Learning trainers keep you focused and on tracked.  They are fantastic, really, very good.  I never felt that I was asking a silly question, I always got a very quick response, much faster that I ever expected and my trainer always reassured me about what I was achieving.”    

It has been a pleasure to work with Kayleigh and we are sure that she will have a great future ahead of her!


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