Amanda Ryalls

Amanda Ryalls - SYMCA Growth Hub Skills Advisor

Amanda Ryalls, 54, has just started the second year of a three-year Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship in Business Administration with Sheffield Hallam University.

Here, she tells us why she chose to become a mature student and how this has benefited her career and the support she offers to businesses in South Yorkshire through the Growth Hub.

Did you go to college or university before starting your career?

“I started university to study interior design but left before I completed the degree to go into work. Then as time went on, I began thinking about how in some ways I regretted not completing the course and so decided to look into studying for a degree again, but I knew that to become a full time student it would mean having to give up my career, which I didn’t want to do.

So, instead I focused on building my skills and expertise through work experience and eventually launched my own business management consultancy and started working as part of the Growth Hub Skills Advisory team.

Business practices and ways of working are always evolving, so I was keen to educate myself further to stay abreast of the latest industry developments, but I also wanted to continue working at the same time. I could have looked at a part-time placement but that would have meant stretching the course over seven years, which is a huge commitment.

I did some digging and I came across the opportunity to register for a Master’s Degree-level apprenticeship instead. It was the perfect solution as not only does it enable me to continue working and earning throughout the course, but as it was a three year programme, it was a lesser commitment than it would have been if I were to do a part-time degree at university.

How has the apprenticeship benefitted your career?

The additional skills and knowledge I have gained since I started the apprenticeship in 2021 have been extremely valuable, not just for me but also for the businesses I support. For example, a key part of my role as a Skills Advisor is to help business owners to develop strategic plans that can help them to secure funding and support to help with staff training within their organisation. I have recently completed a managing strategy module as part of my apprenticeship and by applying what I have learnt into my work it has helped numerous clients already to secure the help they need.

Not only that, but I often recommend apprenticeship programmes for businesses that are facing skills gaps or looking to invest in employee education, and now I am proud to say that I really do practice what I preach.

How does completing an apprenticeship fit around your current work?

I have to be very strict with timescales and plan in advance how I am going to split my time between learning, hitting deadlines and working each month, but by sticking to my (very full) diary it is easily manageable. Don’t get me wrong, it can be tiring and there is a lot of work involved, but it is certainly proving to be worth the time and effort.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an apprentice?

You won’t regret it! Starting an apprenticeship has been by far one of the best decisions I have made both professionally and personally. It has enabled me to boost my expertise and career aspects and at the same time cross off a personal goal that I have been working towards for quite some time.

No matter where you are in your life or career, there will be something to suit you. People often think that apprenticeships are just for 16-24 year olds, but that's not the case. Mature students can benefit hugely from learning through an apprenticeship, I certainly am and as a result I'm better equipped than ever to support other businesses across our region to boost the skills of their employees.”