Lee Sandford: An Engineering Training Manager at National Express

Lee Sandford, an Engineering Training Manager at National Express, is undertaking a Level 7 Senior Leader MSc Apprenticeship at Aston University to develop his skills in his role and advance his educational journey

Lee took on his current role after helping out with the Engineering Apprenticeship programme and seeing opportunity for improvements, and is now responsible for the training and skill level of the engineering workforce, working with South and City College Birmingham as a training provider, as well as managing 40 Engineering Apprentices and their learning experience as they become skilled technicians.

Having left school before completing his A Levels Lee worked his way up in the transport sector before deciding to continue his studies with a Level 3 BTEC in Engineering followed by a Level 4 HNC in Mechanical Engineering, both at Solihull College and University Centre.  

At this point, it was the combination of Lee’s technical qualifications and work experience that meant he was ready to take the jump to a Level 7 degree apprenticeship at Aston University; “the original plan was to go on to a Chartered Manager BA apprenticeship, but after discussions with my Engineering Director and the programme director at Aston University, it was felt that I would be able to go straight onto the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship and study at that level.”

“I did have concerns around being in a group of people who would all have Level 6 degrees and that I’d be starting behind the curve. But after the first session it was clear that everyone in our group was in the same boat and settled in very quickly.” Balancing work and study is the greatest challenge Lee has found with the programme, but National Express and Aston University both provide the support he needs to manage and succeed and he is able to implement all his learning straight back into his role.

 “So far every module that I have studied has related directly to the operation of National Express. It has given me the ability to apply different methods and tools in varying situations and to look through different lenses when tackling both daily issues and long term goals. It has also made me more confident when communicating with my peers and senior managers.”

It is not only Lee who is reaping the rewards of his studies; “National Express are seeing me bringing new skills into the business that I can apply in an effective way. Each module leader is able to relate the teaching material to the learner’s own workplace, in turn aiding understanding and confidence to be able to apply that knowledge within the business.”

The highlight of the programme for Lee has been the depth of knowledge the module leaders are able to bring to each subject, and he hopes to continue with his personal development as he moves up in his career.

“If you are thinking about doing a degree apprenticeship then sign up. It is hard work and will be challenging, but the rewards outweigh any small sacrifice you may need to make along the way.”