7 February 2024
Meet our Marketing Manager apprentice Lauren Felstead
Lauren joined Anchor in October 2019 as Marketing Executive and then started a secondment for a Care Marketing Manager role in June 2023. She was awarded a distinction for the Level 6 Marketing Manager apprenticeship in November 2023 with Cambridge Marketing College after beginning in February 2021.
Why did you choose a Marketing Manager apprenticeship?
I wanted to take on a challenge that would enable me to develop my marketing skills and have a better background theory of the subject. I’d already had a lot of hands-on experience in the roles I had undertaken, but I thought it would put me in good stead for future career development to have a bit more understanding of the theoretical side of marketing.
The Marketing Manager apprenticeship with Cambridge Marketing College was a Level 6 course (that they said was roughly the equivalent to degree level). It was about 29 months, but you could complete it slightly after or finish it before, depending on how you want to take it on. The course would enable you to excel within the Marketing industry and there would be the opportunity to take on further models at the end of this course to achieve a Diploma in Professional Marketing with the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
What were the most valuable skills or knowledge you gained?
I think it was really useful to go back to basics by learning why we do things in marketing and some of the theories behind it, including the best ways to verify or back-up ideas/plans. It’s also useful in many areas of business to have a great understanding of how to put together an effective strategy and know the best ways to continuously evaluate and ensure the plan grows as the business does.
Also, I think the sheer determination over the course of the apprenticeship to make sure I was on-top of all the reading whilst building the three-year marketing strategy, with lots of other things going on personally and professionally - it was definitely a lesson learned that hard work pays off!
How did the program support your personal and professional growth?
Since starting the apprenticeship, alongside knowing I have a better knowledge of the marketing industry, I feel more confident in talking about subjects and have a better idea of strategy in business. I feel more enamoured to have conversations about marketing strategy and the different methods of planning.
It’s enabled me to gain experience and confidence to think about where I’d want my career to go next. The title is Marketing Manager, which is the often the next step up from a Marketing Executive, and I have been fortunate enough to actually take on a Marketing Manager role during the apprenticeship.
What was some of the main challenges you faced during your apprenticeship?
Time was definitely a big factor for me personally! I started the course when we were still in the midst of the Covid-pandemic – which meant I started with a lot of free time! During the course I also took on a secondment as the Care Marketing Manager (at a busy time with some newly-commissioned homes) as well as buying my first home (and moving away from my parents), so time was definitely against me.
It was also tricky keeping up with the set reading and other learning materials, especially when a lot of the course was student-led.
How did you overcome these, what did you learn from it?
I did tell myself that it wasn’t forever so I needed to just get on with it as much as I could! But I also tried to carve out as much time where possible during work (and sometimes in my own time during really busy times), to make sure I had a planned times to focus on the course. I found that Fridays tended to be the best day to concentrate on it as it wasn’t usually as busy. I had to be strict with myself as otherwise it can be really hard to get back into the course when you’ve had too much time away. I blocked out my diary to avoid meetings and sometimes set a timer on my phone to make sure I had solid study hours. I also listened to lots of relaxing music with noise cancelling headphones to help me concentrate!
Can you provide an example of a project or task you completed?
The main task I had to undertake for the apprenticeship was to complete a 4000-word three-year end-to-end marketing plan that was based on an idea that would benefit Anchor as a business (though it was only intended for the purpose of the apprenticeship course). After already being involved with marketing our Extra Care locations, I decided to focus my plan on reducing vacancies in the priority areas within Extra Care. I had to drill my plan down to be very specific, so I decided to focus on how we can reduce vacant properties by strengthening relationships with professionals in the priority areas (which included individuals in Local Authorities, social workers and those working in Adult Social Care). This was something I built upon throughout the duration of the apprenticeship, whilst utilising methods, principles and theories of marketing that I had studied within my online study materials.
Creating the plan from start to finish will definitely put me in good stead in future when I need to map out a project or potential marketing campaign. It’s given me a good idea of things to consider, such as how a plan should be structured, how to spot any risks or mitigations and how to properly evaluate and adapt.
Was there a practical element to your apprenticeship?
The main practical element was completing the plan as part of a ‘Project Showcase’, which included elements of research and work I was doing within the Extra Care area. This meant I could include information about campaigns that had already been undertaken, speak with colleagues across the business, and use figures to evidence why my plan would be useful to the business. These were included as appendices within my plan.
Any meetings I had during work time that were based on marketing for Extra Care, webinars I attended through the apprenticeship provider, and lots more, all counted towards my ‘on the job hours’. Which meant I was able to document tasks I was doing as part of my work towards my apprenticeship.
At the end of the apprenticeship, once I’d submitted my project plan, I had to present my plan as if I was trying to gain backing from the business. I then had a couple of professional discussions with an examiner where I had to answer questions either about my plan or about my own knowledge, skills and behaviours.
Did you receive the support you needed from mentors/colleagues throughout the apprenticeship?
Yes, definitely. The managers I had throughout my course all wanted me to do well and get the best out of the apprenticeship. They were there to offer support and guidance where needed. I’d often have catch-ups based on the course to make sure I was finding it okay. I know my managers were fully supportive of me doing the course and were always there to help if there was anything I was struggling with. The support I received from colleagues definitely made completing the apprenticeship easier.
How has completing this apprenticeship influenced your career path?
I was towards the end of my apprenticeship when I took on a secondment for the very role/level that I was doing an apprenticeship in. I’d like to think the course had a helping hand in enhancing my appeal as a worthwhile and serious candidate for the role.
It’s also cemented that I am capable of taking on a Marketing Manager role – it definitely gave me the confidence to take on the seconded Marketing Manager role, and I’m excited for what else the future brings.
I feel I have also gained some insight into what parts of marketing I enjoy doing and where I could improve or expand my knowledge.
Do you feel ready to pursue a career in your chosen field after your apprenticeship, if so, how?
Yes, definitely. I was confident enough to take on a Marketing Manager role whilst I was still doing the apprenticeship, so I feel if I can do that then I could definitely take on the role again. Knowing that I have the knowledge from the completed apprenticeship definitely makes me feel more confident for the future of my marketing career.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the apprenticeship?
To try it even if you’re unsure if you’re at the right level to do it. You should be aiming to gain experience in the area which you’d like to progress in so it’s normal to not know everything. I thought it sounded like a big challenge but it’s only when I took it on that I realised it’s a lot more doable than I first thought.
Know that there isn’t a specific age to do things, or a right order. I think apprenticeships are often seen as something that either isn’t a useful qualification or is for young people to do, and not much will be gained from it. But it provides you with lots of on-the-job experience while expanding your knowledge in your chosen field.
There may be times when you feel like you want to give up (I know I did when it came to the masses of materials I had to get through, or continue writing up my plan when I’d had a bad week), but keep going and know that it will come to an end and you’ll be glad to have done it.
I also would urge you to look at how you prefer to study, as there are lots of apprenticeship providers who offer courses with different structures – meaning that there is a course with different ways of learning that should suit everyone. I decided to do a course that was completely online, but others might prefer to attend some classes in person, or a mix of both. Do whatever you feel is best for you to get the most out of the apprenticeship.
Are there any specific approaches you found useful?
Mostly to make sure I was taking advantage of the 20% time during work to my reading, attend webinars and write up my plan. Life can get busy (and it definitely did whilst I was doing the apprenticeship) but you need to be strict with yourself by making sure you have dedicated time throughout the week to focus on the course and nothing else.
To learn more about apprenticeships at Anchor, click here.