Steve Bamber felt the benefits of his Masters in Manufacturing Leadership even before he’d finished his studies, securing a promotion from Head of Manufacturing to Head of Operations (Astute) with a year of the course still to run.
Now responsible for over 600 men working on the £5 billion Astute submarine programme at BAE Systems in Barrow-in-Furness, Steve says the knowledge and insights he gained through the Masters made a significant contribution to his promotion.
“I’m convinced it had a big part to play. It definitely enhanced my understanding of leadership, and how to apply different leadership strategies in different contexts, whether it’s a small management team or the whole workforce,” says Steve.
After more than 30 years with BAE Systems, Steve was looking for a qualification that would not only consolidate and demonstrate his existing skills and experience, but which could bring new perspectives to his understanding and challenge him to think differently.
He says he researched traditional MBAs and looked at other Masters-level engineering-related courses, but found that none offered the same practical emphasis or industry focus.
In addition, he says the structure of The Manufacturing Institute’s course – effectively one evening session (Thursday) and one day (Friday) every three weeks – meant it was relatively straightforward to fit around his work commitments.
“We only work half a day on Fridays in this industry, so the Masters was ideal. It fitted in with my busy career and meant I didn’t have to miss too much work time,” he says.
Although he’d not been in formal education for more than three decades, Steve had taken a number of work and management-related courses during his time with BAE, so returning to the classroom was not a wholly new experience. Nevertheless, he says the two-day ‘returning to study’ session at the start of the course was a great help.
“It eases you into the practicalities of study at Masters level – where’s the library, how to use your card, how to conduct research, where to find resources online. Afterwards I felt amply equipped to get on with it and couldn’t wait to get started,” says Steve.
What’s more, he says he was impressed by the extent to which each of the six modules related directly to his own experiences and to the challenges facing the business. He was able to base each assignment on actual examples from BAE Systems, while his dissertation on applying lean manufacturing principles in a submarine environment led to several significant improvements to working practices at the company.
“It was the best education I’ve ever had,” says Steve. “It’s not just about gaining knowledge and skills. It’s about developing an awareness and an understanding to try new things, make better decisions and lead with confidence.”