The Accidental Manager – Operations/Departmental Manager Apprenticeship

by Su Wright-Lewis

Day 1

I hated school. I’ll probably be the oldest person here.

Having applied for an apprenticeship with trepidation, the accidental manager arrives at the University prepared with notebooks, charged laptop and a full pencil case.

What on earth was I thinking? This isn’t for me…

As they sit down and look around the room, imposter syndrome kicks in.

This room is full of real managers. People who know what they’re talking about.

But it’s too late to leave now. And the lecturer seems friendly enough.

I’ll leave it til the end of the day, and then I’ll let my manager know we’ve made a terrible mistake.

The students introduce themselves and start with an icebreaker

Please don’t ask me anything, please don’t ask me anything

The students are asked to anonymously give one word to describe their feelings, right there in that very moment on Day 1.

Figure 1 – student feelings on day 1

Unsure, average, apprehensive, nervous…. That’s how I’m feeling too. Well that makes me feel better. Yet I’m curious, and I’m excited. I want to be the best manager I can, I want to motivate my team and improve performance.

The lecturer discusses what we will learn in Module 1 and how this will be applied in our roles. Starting with motivation and team performance.

Maybe this is for me…..

Defining an accidental manager

An accidental manager refers to an individual who finds themselves in a managerial position without necessarily having the formal training, experience, or intention to become a manager. This situation often arises when someone excels in their technical or specialized role and is promoted to a managerial position due to their expertise or tenure, rather than their leadership or management skills.

However, being an accidental manager doesn’t mean that a person cannot grow and develop into an effective leader. With the right support, mentoring, and training, they can acquire the necessary management skills and become successful in their new role. Organizations can provide resources, such as leadership programs or workshops, to help accidental managers enhance their managerial capabilities and improve their overall performance.

The Operations/Departmental Manager Apprenticeship provides the perfect opportunity to hone and develop the management and leadership skills and knowledge required to be an effective leader.

Full time employment alongside a Level 5 apprenticeship brings its own challenges, but also provides an excellent opportunity to learn as you earn, removing the financial concerns that a traditional University route can bring.

Working with other managers from a range of industries, you will be encouraged to share your experiences and learn from others within a blended setting of face to face and online learning forums.

Staffordshire University are proud to be the only University in the country who can boast “Centre of Excellence Accreditation” from ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) due to the high quality of student work and high number of distinction grades.

We believe that our success stems from the support available through the student journey, including our passionate and supportive academic team who are industry experts in leadership and management. You can see some of our student feedback below.

You will also be assigned a Work Based Education Officer who will mentor you throughout the course to ensure that you are reaching your full potential and have access to any support services you may require. Speaking of support services, we recognise that for those from a practical background, the academic life can feel a little daunting. To coach you through the world of academia, we have a specialised academic support team who can provide one to one coaching, or tutorials around referencing, citation or academic writing.

Student feedback

Our apprenticeships offer a well-rounded learning experience that combines practical skills development, mentorship, industry-recognized credentials, and a smoother transition into management careers or promotion. These advantages make apprenticeships an appealing option for individuals seeking to kick-start their careers or acquire new skills in leadership.

2 Years Later….

I did it. I can’t believe I did it. I never thought I’d graduate. Me! Graduate!

Getting the call with my results was a proud moment for me and has given me the confidence to know, that I am a manager, but am no longer accidental.

Find out all about our apprenticships here

or email Su