Meet Mark Corden - Head of Apprenticeships

Posted in Apprenticeships on March 30, 2017
Author: Lifeatspecsavers

Tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm Mark, 2 weeks into the business as Head of Apprenticeships.  I live in rural Devon with my wife Emily and three children - Ava, Monty and Rose.  I've had national roles for most of my working life, so I try to strike a balance with a home base and travel.

What did you do before you joined Specsavers?
I've just come out of my own consultancy business where I led a team of 3. Nearly all our clients were further education colleges or training companies, broadly speaking we provided interim leadership coverage at executive level; project management across things like systems integration, programme delivery and research; and organisational and workflow design services.  I've also just stepped out of a non-executive position as Chair of the Board for an Awarding Organisation; prior to that I have run apprenticeship and skills training companies as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer.  Before that I had 8 years in a non-departmental public body and my early days were in retail food when Aldi were first in the UK.

When did you join Specsavers?
I started full time 27th February, but I did have the opportunity to do a few days before that in January and early February as part of my getting to know the business. Today is day 9 full time!

And what does your role specifically involve?
I've come on board to drive the evolution of Apprenticeships at Specsavers, so that we can create a breadth of job roles and functions for which Apprenticeships are available and to integrate Apprenticeships more fully into our wider L&D offer. The business already has a successful Retail Optical Assistant programme, I'm going to lead the Apprenticeship Team deliver the next phase of Apprenticeships. Currently I am working through my own immersion to the business as well as working with Retail, Finance, Payroll and L&D colleagues to work through the implementation issues of the Apprenticeship Levy.

What will we see from apprenticeships over the coming months following the introduction of the apprenticeship levy?
Prior to me arriving, the Apprenticeship Team had already started to communicate with the wider business, talking about the apprenticeship levy and potential opportunities. We're now building out what that means for us and for Partners. In April, we'll be cascading the apprenticeship levy projections as well as providing Partners with the opportunity to identify their notional demand for Apprenticeships for the next couple of years - once we have line of sight of demand, we can then start to build both our in-sourced internal capability to service that demand, as well as understand how the soon to launch Digital Apprenticeship Service will work where we may want to identify and engage outsourced external capability for some programmes. We have a new Spectacle Maker Apprenticeship launching in the Midlands this month and we are keeping abreast of all the new Apprenticeship Standards that are being published which may be beneficial to different functions across Specsavers.

And what impact do you hope that the apprenticeship levy will have in five years' time?
To prove Apprenticeships are good for business. The Apprenticeship Levy is driving change in larger employers (like Specsavers) to think about how they utilise Apprenticeships as part of Talent Management, but the win for the business and for future apprentices, is to know that Apprenticeships really do make a difference to our customer experience, productivity, employee engagement and succession planning.

What do you like about working at Specsavers?
The people and the work we do. I have worked in and with a lot of different organisations over the last 8 years, the passion and collaborative attitude that people at Specsavers promote is rare; the fact that we provide our services and products to improve the lives of our customers is another major plus.

Any improvements you would like to see at Specsavers?
Having been involved in the 'design of work' at Optima, I think we can improve the way in which we work - through improved planning of priorities, capacity and tasks so that we can bring the cliche 'work smarter not harder' to life.