Apprenticeship Levy, Case studies, Management

Corndel, Mumsnet Parent Returners programme – a learner’s experience

10 March 2020 by Isla Lightfoot

Irina Gleeson is a Catering Manager at Compass Group, mum of two young boys and a learner on the Leadership Accelerator programme, the first-levy funded returners programme in the UK, designed by Corndel and Mumsnet.

This ground-breaking initiative is specifically designed for maternity returners and is focused on advancing women into leadership positions.

Irina saw the opportunity that the course would provide to grow in her current role, although she anticipated an e-learning style course, similar to ones she had encountered in the past: ‘I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is an amazing opportunity. I have learnt so much by working with a group of people at Compass with similar issues to me – juggling a career with nappies and childcare. Coming back from maternity leave and having the support of a coach who has gone through everything I’m experiencing has been so insightful. Because we meet both face-to-face at workshops and every other week virtually, I find I’m picking up language and terminology, in addition to how she approaches things. The coaching element of this programme is so valuable.’

Irina felt that the first unit – motivating people, was particularly relevant to her current role and she uses the frameworks regularly. ‘I have shared the information from this module with my supervisor and we are now implementing this together.’ The masterclass in relaxation realigned her understanding of the ‘always on’ culture of work. ‘I’ve always felt that a demonstration of productivity is to be busy, but this masterclass taught me that sometimes you need to take time out to think about how you can best achieve your objectives. I used this technique when I approached our busiest season – Christmas, which is usually a very stressful time integrating new menus, products and time-poor customers. I took the time to plan and anticipate some of the issues and I was much better at managing both the stress-levels of myself and my team, thanks to the tools I’ve learnt on the course. As a result, this season was stress-free and really enjoyable.’

Post-parental leave, research consistently indicates parents feel lost and lack confidence in their abilities. Irina feels the course has successfully helped her to navigate this: ‘My coach has taught me coping strategies. The tools we use have got me back into my role quicker, she has given me a greater appreciation of how I can support my Line Manager. I feel more confident generally, because I have the time in our one-to-one coaching sessions where I can discuss things I might have avoided in the past.’

The parent-returners programme is specifically tailored to a stage of life when people feel less supported in the workplace and tend to drop out. The balance of course workload in addition to juggling a career and parenthood was given a great deal of consideration in the initial design phases. It was very important that this programme supported and enabled parents to progress their careers, not add to their workload. Irina confesses, ‘I thought that balance would be an issue and I flagged this in my Individual Learning Plan at the beginning of the course. However, Compass give us 20% of work time each week to devote to this programme and my team and line manager are very supportive of this. Time is not an issue’.

Irina describes the programme as ‘well thought out, relevant, well built and so interesting’, she feels a great deal of loyalty towards Compass for providing this opportunity and remains a highly motivated member of their team. ‘It is so important for loyal working parents to be offered opportunities like this. I am learning things that not only help me in my current role, but have set me up to move onto other roles when I am ready.’

More information about the Corndel Diplomas.

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