In June 2021, Cristina shared her professional development story with us, revealing what it's like to balance a higher level qualification like the Information, Advice and Guidance Level 4, and work in a full-time role.
I work as a career coach at one of the further education colleges in Cardiff.
I started with TSW in 2019, and I'm currently undertaking my level 4 Information, Advice, and Guidance qualification.
I just got a promotion. I started in further education by working as a work placement officer. Given my performance, my manager thought I was ready to undertake a bit more responsibility and go into the world of careers, education, advice, and guidance.
"I did a degree for love and I did an apprenticeship for work. I ended up loving it."
It was a key requirement of the role that I am a Level 4 qualified in IAG. So, this apprenticeship with TSW seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to progress in my career and get a head start in a completely new area.
I have discovered a real passion for working with young adults and mentoring. My role as well as this qualification allowed me to do that and, delve deeper into the world of mentoring and careers based on guidance.
I found that in my first year of further education, I was naturally taking on more cases where more mentoring was involved. I really enjoy that element of the role.
Taking this promotion to a career coach would broaden my knowledge, and I'd actually start mentoring and be qualified for it, which was quite amazing.
How was your training advisor?
Jane and I were so on the same wavelength.
We work in similar ways and I just found her way of, mentoring me and teaching me was relatable.
"She's the type of training advisor you can call anytime and say 'Jane, I need help now'. And she'd be like, 'okay, let's talk it through. I'll help you'"
Because of Jane, I progressed a bit quicker through my NVQ because she had her ways of getting me to do the modules and work that would see me through at a quicker pace.
I did have points in which I thought I couldn't do it anymore, but that's not a reflection on the qualification, but a reflection on the fact that I was finding it really hard to balance everything.
Jane was the person who said: "Hang on, you've done so much and your work is good enough. You can really do this. You just need a plan."
And without her pushing me, writing a plan for me and going: "You need to do this unit by then", I don't think I would have done it because she's given me not only the structure but she's given me the support as well.
She's the type of training advisor you can call anytime and say: "Jane, I need help now", and she'd be like, "okay, let's talk it through. I'll help you. No problem!"
What are the benefits of IAG?
The benefit is career progression.
By being Level 4 qualified and subsequently Level 6 in the future, I can work for councils and at a management level. Career progression is aided by this qualification.
If anyone is approaching this qualification with a similar goal in mind, they're definitely on the right track.
The student interactions I have, and the way I collect and manage data, has hugely improved because I have learned a bit more through my research and my coursework. So that's another huge benefit.
The other benefit is meeting amazing people. You think you're going to be quite independent and only talk with your training advisor, but you're actually meeting loads of like-minded people on training days and courses.
Was your employer supportive?
They were very supportive of the whole qualification.
My line manager helped as much as she could by taking responsibilities off me so I could complete the qualification. I had no barriers in that sense because my employers did want me to achieve, and they want me to be qualified.
To be able to practice as a career coach, you do need this qualification and they were very aware of that.
I have only words of praise in that sense because they have been accommodated.
Has the apprenticeship changed the way you work?
The certification has made me more aware of the legislation and the rules behind it all.
I had an innate ability to communicate with my learners, I was quite relatable. They found it easy to communicate with me, but by doing the qualification, I delve deeper into the whole world of legislation and regulations and rules and things you're supposed to do. And how's to record this information.
In terms of my progression, this course has allowed me to put clear foundations of how to interact with the students.
It's not just the communication, but the backstage work that the students don't necessarily see. The passing on of information, the referrals, the recording of data - it's been helpful in that sense.
If you are already in a job and you're looking to retrain, the apprenticeship is the way forward.
I don't regret retraining. I did a degree for love and I did an apprenticeship for work and I ended up loving it.
Your future with IAG
I hope to go on and do my level six or a postgraduate in careers, education, advice, and guidance.
I see myself working at a management level in a role like this, within education, further education, or higher education - I don't mind which. The Level 4 has laid the foundations to be able to go in and achieve those higher up qualifications as well.
How was your apprenticeship experience?
I had a really positive experience. I was blessed with not one but two training advisors and they've all been lovely. I've had all the necessary support to achieve.
I'm very grateful to have been allowed to do the qualifications whilst working because I'm very aware that these qualifications done independently do cost a lot. I feel very grateful to TSW and my current employer for putting me through it.
The qualification is straightforward. The framework is really well laid out in front of you. The rules are clear from the beginning, and you have the full support of a training advisor who will see you.