Chatting with TalkTalk’s Performance Coach Andy Hollingworth

Skills are for life


Why apprenticeships help both the company and the person studying

This week marks National Apprenticeship Week 2023 and the theme is #SkillsForLife. Almost 100 of our employees are studying for an apprenticeship alongside their day job, supported by the course provider, their cohort and of course the business. TalkTalk’s Performance Coach, Andy Hollingworth, coaches many of our apprentices. He told us why apprenticeships help both the company and the person studying.

Andy – tell us a bit about you...

I’m originally from a small town in Derbyshire but moved to the bright lights of Manchester in 2005 to live with my wife. I’ve worked in various L&D type roles, mainly in Telco but also Car Rental, and most recently I spent a bit of time in consultancy doing Leadership Development and D&I training for clients around the world.

And your current role at TalkTalk – Performance Coach – what does it mean?

On a simple level I work with leaders, teams and individuals to support them in identifying and achieving their goals. I ask questions that make people think differently and come up with their own ideas without me necessarily having all the answers. I’m really interested in “human performance” and what makes us turn up and be the best at whatever it is we want to do.

How important do you think it is for people to upskill and further their development through studying?

It’s hugely important. I’m obviously biased but I would say personal development is the number one thing that people need to focus on for success. The world moves and changes at such a pace that even if you are born with some innate skill and expertise, it may quickly become redundant. Just look at how fast we had to learn to run remote meetings and now work in a collaborative/hybrid way as people embrace flexible working.

I always use the analogy of a teacher with 40 years’ experience who everyone thinks must be fantastic because they have been doing the job for so long. But if they’ve been doing it the same way as they did on day one they will be teaching in a really old fashioned and out of date way. We need to remain curious, self-aware and open to personal improvement.

All employees have the chance to do an apprenticeship if it aligns with their job role at TalkTalk – but is it for everyone?

I would definitely say it’s worth exploring it and there are so many out there that are not tied down to specific roles. It’s worth considering all routes to, and options for, development, though, as apprenticeships can take a lot of time and commitment. One of the great things about TalkTalk is that we have so many different ways to stretch and grow yourself, either informally through peer learning and knowledge sharing or more formal routes like coaching or the brilliant Skillsoft licence we all have access to for FREE!

What’s often overlooked is the wellbeing benefit. There’s so much research out there into the links between learning and personal wellbeing. If we are learning and applying what we have learned, then we feel useful and relevant which is so important to our psychological wellbeing.

So, there is much more to it than chasing that promotion, new job or recognition within work?

100%. I was talking about this only yesterday. People tend to view progression as kind of island-hopping from one role to the next. I’ve pretty much been doing the same job for 18 years. But, have I grown and developed in that time? Absolutely! I’ve moved on massively as a person and professionally. I talk to leaders about identifying degrees of growth within role so that someone can see progression and development without thinking they have to get a promotion or another role to move onto.

You believe in it so much you’re starting your own apprenticeship journey this year!

Yes, in March I will start the Level 5 Professional Coaching Apprenticeship. I get good feedback as a coach so I could easily just stand still. However, I don’t want to rest where I am and I’m curious about connecting with others and what else I can learn to make me even better at what I do.

Is there something specific that you’re working towards?

No, it’s purely to learn, develop and stretch myself in a topic that is core to what I do. Our network engineers study and learn the latest technologies and I believe it should be the same whether you are a HR professional or in any part of the business.

I just want to get the end of my career and look back knowing I’ve made a positive difference to the people I’ve worked with over the years. I’m a big believer in ripple effects and if I can make a difference to one leader that will impact their team, the organisation, their families and everyone around them. The more I can do that the better!