HR Consultant/Business Partner apprentice – Laura Derkatsch

Congratulations to Laura Derkatsch who gained a Distinction in her apprenticeship with Watson Martin. Laura believes completing the programme has given her confidence and improved the quality of her work as a People Process Lead with John Lewis Partnership. Here she tells us about her experience as an HR Consultant/Business Partner apprentice and becoming CIPD qualified.

“I can’t really express how much this apprenticeship has done for me.  I now fundamentally understand HR more which has given me so much confidence and determination to ensure that my contribution at work adds value to the business.”  

What is your current role?

I am a People Process Lead with John Lewis Partnership (JLP). I look after all the end-to-end business processes for the People function particularly around advising teams on how they can work more efficiently whilst also maintaining the delivery of the best experience for our customers.  It’s quite a consultative role, which encompasses the whole People function.

How did your apprenticeship come about?

I had been in this role for a few months when the opportunity arose to become an apprentice. I felt there was a lot of HR that I hadn’t been exposed to so I thought an apprenticeship would provide a really good overview and a chance to be better at my job. It was also quite a personal challenge. I had never studied to this level before so it was comforting to know JLP would be supporting me throughout the programme. With two small girls at home and a busy job it was bound to be a major undertaking!

What attracted you to HR/L&D?

I’m a real people person.  I had been in a generalist HR position in a small business before JLP and enjoyed the elements of the role. I have always loved supporting other people.  I am a mentor at work – part of a mentoring and coaching bank at JLP – and have supported lots of people across the business on a whole range of issues, which I have always enjoyed.  HR has always been the right place to be for me.

Was the CIPD qualification an important aspect of your apprenticeship?

Yes it was. I really wanted to understand the nuts and bolts of HR, how it fits into an organisation, the legislation we are bound by and what is best practice.  The qualification helps with all that but the apprenticeship element helped me to apply it contextually to JLP and understand how HR fits within our own culture and values.

How did you manage the off-the-job studying time and was your manager supportive?

It’s not always easy but I’ve been lucky to have a very supportive manager who encouraged me to block the time out in my diary for studying.  It made me much more able to commit to my studies.

What has been your experience of studying for your apprenticeship with Watson Martin?

My adviser Louise Hill who saw me through the majority of my apprenticeship was great and had so much knowledge.  I felt she really cared as in our regular progress meetings she would also check on my wellbeing. I always felt confident that I could get in touch with questions at any time. Louise was also great at realising the speed I needed to go at so if there were work pressures she would ease off but then support me to get going again to meet a deadline. I must also mention Andrea Moffatt who saw me through my end point assessment and mock professional discussion.  She was just brilliant, very encouraging and enthusiastic.  I was lucky to work with both advisers.

Did you find Watson Martin’s VLE and workshops useful?

The VLE was just brilliant. There was so much supporting documentation and different types of learning materials from podcasts and recorded webinars to links to different websites.  The full day workshops for our cohort were definitely my preferred style of learning. These moved to shorter online webinars during the pandemic, which I found slightly harder to engage with but they got me through my qualification so I can’t complain!  All the trainers at Watson Martin are excellent and bring the learning to life.

How has the apprenticeship and qualification improved your work?

I can’t really express how much this apprenticeship has done for me.  I now fundamentally understand HR more which has given me so much confidence and determination to ensure that my contribution at work adds value to the business. Having that broader knowledge, especially in the role that I do which is quite consultative in nature, has improved the quality of my work and I am better able to advise.  I know so much more not just about the business but about the external factors that affect our business.

What new skills and knowledge have you developed to support your role?

I have gained a huge amount of knowledge and understand the fundamentals of how people fit within our business.  I think differently now as I have joined up so many more dots of why we do what we do and how other functions within People can best support our employees across the business and our culture and values. From a personal perspective, I definitely feel so much more resilient and have an inner strength I didn’t know I had. I feel more confident about voicing my opinion on things because it is coming from a position of knowledge rather than just guess work.

Do you think apprenticeships are good for your business and if so why?

Yes definitely.  Apprenticeships show that as a business we care about the development of our people, which is very important to JLP. It’s also a win win situation as the business gets an employee with the additional knowledge that can be applied in the workplace.  Generally, if a business invests in its employees then it will also benefit.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship to others who want to progress their HR or L&D career?

I would.  I was amazed at how much knowledge I have taken in but understanding it in the context of the company you work for is just so valuable.  That’s the aspect for me that the apprenticeship gives you and which you don’t gain if you are just doing the qualification. If you are in a company where you want to be then it’s a brilliant way to learn and develop.

Would you recommend Watson Martin to others?

Yes 100%! Watson Martin has been fantastic to learn with and all of the advisers and trainers I have come across have been brilliant.

What are your ultimate career aims?

I am excited to find out! Having learnt so much about the People function I’m even more passionate about it, and am open minded about what opportunities there may be to progress in the future.

To find out how you can become one of our successful apprentices and become CIPD qualified like Laura then contact our specialist advisers today on 020 7932 2760.