Natasha's Story: My Degree Apprenticeship


As one of the learners on Arden's Level 6 Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, Natasha is combining studying towards a degree with her career in the hospitality.  

Developing knowledge, skills, and behaviours through continuous application of learning into the workplace, Natasha, who is one of a closed cohort of WSH degree apprenticeship learners, works four days a week as an Assistant Manager with Holroyd Howe – a company who provide premium Catering for Independent Schools.

As part of her working week, she also spends one day studying online with Arden University. 

Since having started her studies, Natasha has noticed she now has a deeper understanding of her workplace, as well as substantial improvements to her transferable skills and confidence. 

Combining work and education, the degree apprenticeship offers a dynamic alternative to conventional higher education for those keen to learn on the job and, with employers able to fund this course by applying for the apprenticeship levy, it’s an alternative that comes with no costs the learner, and minimal costs for the employer.

Find out more about why studying for a degree apprenticeship suits Natasha’s situation below.

Why did you start studying for this degree apprenticeship with Arden, how did that opportunity emerge?

So, I was looking for a Degree Apprenticeship to study Business management alongside work experience. WSH provided a suitable programme and are partnered with Arden University to deliver the course content. 

The reason I was looking for an apprenticeship, rather than just going to university. With having dyslexia my preferred method of learning is to learn by doing. Being on a degree apprenticeship programme allows 80% of your time to learn by doing. I saw university as a full-time course with the need to conduct excess reading, this would not have suited my learning type. 

I always had degree apprenticeships on the back of my mind, with the other idea of taking a GAP year. 

When I came across this opportunity with WSH it sparked my interest. Working for WSH is interactive and practical with the opportunity to network with different people, you're not just sat at a desk all day, so I applied for it, and here I am. 

What kind of things do you do in your day-to-day job?

We're a hospitality business, so behind the scenes we have six kitchens and 40 staff on site, so it's quite busy. I start my day by checking in with all the staff members, see if they need anything from me. At our site we are team focused, therefore it is important for me to engage with staff to help boost morale. As well as that, at certain times you get involved with the hospitality events, manage the finances, lead Health & Safety standards, conduct job chats, promote marketing and much more. 

Being on an apprenticeship programme keeps you busy and allows you to soak in many opportunities and knowledge in the workplace. 

How long into working with WSH did you realise you wanted to add an education aspect to your work? 

I joined in September 2022, so I've been here for 15 months now, I wanted to start studying a degree straight away as I was keen to learn.

One of the reasons I joined WSH was because of the link with Arden. I always wanted to get a degree alongside working and this was a great company for me to join because they had that opportunity. 

Talking about the course itself now, for anyone who's not necessarily familiar with your course, what kind of things have you learned about?

So, for the business course, we've learned about things like managing your finances and marketing, but with the marketing, it's not just putting advertisements out there, it's thinking about why you’re putting the adverts out there? Who are you actually focusing on? And how are you then going to target them? 

We've also learned about understanding people in the business.

The people are at the heart of a business, and it is important to understand there needs to help them excel in the workplace. Arden support us by liaising models, theories and research with us to help further our understanding of the matter.

A lot of people think about apprenticeships as jobs for younger, inexperienced workers. But this course is a full-time professionally accredited programme. How does the apprenticeship work?

It can change, depending on where you are working, but for the WSH programme, we work Monday to Thursday, with Friday being a study day from home. We will work 80% of the time study with Arden for 20% of the working week, which means you get paid for your studies, as well as your work. 

That works really nicely to keep you motivated to do the studies.

Sometimes people can drop a little bit of motivation when you're studying a three-year course, but when you’re treating your study time as working time it keeps you motivated. 

Also, the way it works is that you’re not just an apprentice. I'm now assistant manager on my site. I’m getting exposure to different areas of the business. Being an apprentice is not about doing the administrative for a business it is about soaking up as much information as possible to aid your future understanding. 

How is the programme elevating you, in your job and beyond?

Being on programme has given me opportunities to solidify my knowledge. So, I think it helps me apply things into work. After reading about it, learning about it, and discussing it in my lectures, I’m able to add more detail to what I’ve learnt on site here. It's not just about your business though, you're also learning about how you could do similar things at different businesses in different industries, giving you transferable skills.

What value do you think you're bringing to the company that perhaps you weren't when you started here?

I believe I bring a new perspective to the business. We do a lot of work centred around the fourth industrial revolution, looking at key facts and figures of 2023, and asking “What does our business needs change to keep it competitive?” And whether we are evolving with the change or are we just staying in the past. Studying in this way can help bring a bit of an outside perspective too, when you’re only working at the business Monday through Friday, nine to five, you're not always thinking about the outside. Having lectures to focus on positive changes in the industry can help me bring new ideas into the workplace. 

What do you really love about your job? 

I love understanding and helping people. Helping, nurturing, and coaching staff is one of my favourite parts, and then watching them succeed, it's just great to see that development in people. The team I work with are fantastic and are supportive of my apprenticeship journey which makes work enjoyable. 

What are some of the most surprising things about working in hospitality?

Working in the industry has made me more aware that there's so much going on behind the scenes that you don't actually think about. When you go out for dinner, you literally have no idea what they're doing behind the scenes. But working here has really opened my eyes to things like legislation, roles, risk and things like that. I find it hard to switch off when I go out now! 

How have you found the experience of working with the other apprenticeship learners? 

This year, I’ve spent time in person with a lot of the apprentices on the same course as me. It really does make it feel a bit more like the classic university lifestyle. 

When we’re interacting online in our lectures, the university put us in breakout rooms, which gives us time to talk about what we're learning at our individual site and share experiences. 

Because we’re a closed cohort, all from WSH, we also all have our own WSH calls, allowing us to have a monthly catch up. It's important to know that we're not on our own, and because we live so far away, you could end up feeling quite alone. But I've made sure that I've gone and got the train to meet some of them in person, so it’s not just people on a screen. 

How have you found balancing your studies with your personal life?

I'm a dancer, so I make sure that I still go to dance in evenings, and I love the gym. I also have plenty of time to see my friends.

Studying and working doesn't stop me from doing my hobbies and having my social time. 

What's been your proudest moment whilst you've been studying with us?

Developing my academic knowledge, my grades have considerably improved over the past year studying at Arden university. 

What type of support have you received?

My coach has been supportive throughout my apprenticeship journey so far, she understands my areas of development and provides support where possible to assist this development. She can relate to me and understand my learning type. The academic skills team provide additional academic support. One really understood my difficulties and helped me build strategies to help myself overcome the errors I was making. 

And what do you hope that your apprenticeship and your degree is going to bring you in the future? 

I really hope it's going to enhance my opportunity to go further in the business.

I'd love to do a master's course to further develop my skills. 

What differences can you see between yourself between starting the degree and now?

I have a deeper understanding of human behaviour, and I've become more confident. I've always been a confident personality, but not necessarily in work.

When I first joined, I was like: “Oh, I don't know, anything compared to these guys.” So, I'd have all these ideas, but I'd never express them.

Now, I'm hosting meetings, putting agendas together, and conveying my thoughts to the team. So, it's really helped me gain confidence and understand the business more.

Click here to find out more about Arden’s degree apprenticeship courses