Successful apprentice creates business strategy that leads to promotion


Helen Clinton, Senior National Account Manager at the Stoke-on-Trent based national Portmeirion Group, created an impactful business strategy which paved the way to her promotion within the company.

A young professional in a white lacy shirt smiling at work..

Helen created the successful strategy shortly after enrolling on a Business to Business (B2B) Sales Degree Apprenticeship at Leeds Trinity University. Helen, originally from Stoke-on-Trent joined Portmeirion Group, an English producer of pottery and glass homeware, back in 2018 as a Key Account Manager, moving up to National Account Manager two years later. Having worked in the field for 14 years, Helen decided to further her career by completing a degree apprenticeship. Helen did not take the traditional route into higher education, recounting that she “couldn’t get past the first year” back in her early 20s.

She believes that a degree apprenticeship enabled her to succeed academically and professionally, due to its practical and vocational nature. While studying, Helen developed even more within the company, leading to her second promotion to Senior National Account Manager, just last year.

The promotion came after the employer noticed an “almost immediate” change in Helen’s confidence at work and her approach to the business. As part of the apprenticeship, Helen developed a business strategy, which she successfully presented to Portmeirion who adopted it as their main channel strategy 18 months ago. This allowed Helen to make a real impact at work and showcase her knowledge and skills acquired at University.

Helen Clinton said: “The apprenticeship has offered me a more holistic, well-rounded view on business, helping me to progress my role, to change things and to make a difference at work.

“One of the projects I did in university was the business strategy project which became our channel strategy. The degree helped me look at business strategy differently and stand out in the team. It’s now been two years since using the channel strategy at work and we have been seeing many benefits.”

Stephen Richardson, UK Sales Director at Portmeirion Group said: “Helen came to the business with many skills that she then developed even further, managing to grow business and acquire new customers which led to her promotion. A lot of what she had to learn to get to this stage came from the apprenticeship, which was fantastic to see. It was almost an immediate impact.”

Talking about the challenges of balancing a job, the apprenticeship and her personal life, Helen said it was essential to have the support of her employer, as well as the University. In order for the apprenticeship to benefit both her and the business, the commitment had to come from both sides.

Helen said: “My experience on the degree apprenticeship has been successful but that is also down to the business being willing to listen to my presentations and allowing flexibility for projects. It must work both ways. If there are barriers between the employee who does an apprenticeship and the employer, neither will benefit fully.”

Stephen Richardson said: “It’s an investment. Not only does the student invest their time and efforts, but for the company, it’s more than a financial investment. You invest in the future of your team and in that individual person. I could see an immediate change in Helen’s attitude once she started the apprenticeship. She went from focusing strictly on her job to thinking holistically and from a business perspective.”

Julie Twigg, UK Learning and Development Manager at Portmeirion Group said: “Over the past two years, we’ve seen Helen flourish in her role. We’ve been focusing on taking the learning and theory she got from the course and applying it to the business. She keeps getting better and better.

“From a learning and development perspective, it is so important for employers to see it as a two-way relationship and commit to making the most of that opportunity. Helen is proof that it works, and she is reaping the rewards now.”

Leeds Trinity University offers degree apprenticeships across a range of industries, including business, children, young people and families, policing and construction. The University is growing its course provision and facilities, preparing to open a new City Campus in the heart of Leeds, and thus further establishing its presence in the city. Leeds ranked in the top 10 best English cities for employment opportunities, according to Glassdoor in 2023.

The Business to Business (B2B) Sales Apprenticeship at Leeds Trinity University is a work-based programme designed for anyone interested to succeed in sales. To find out more about degree apprenticeships at Leeds Trinity University, please visit the website.


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