Apprentice of the Year 2021: Kirby Raper

Winner - Kirby Raper, Specsavers

Apprentice of the Year recognises an individual who has made outstanding progress within their job role whilst on programme. We’re pleased to announce this year the winner is Kirby Raper, Clinical Manager at Specsavers. Congratulations Kirby! We couldn’t have found a more worthy winner.

Kirby’s potential has always been clear to Director Steven Wheatley, who saw that she had all the makings of a great manager but needed more confidence in her own abilities.

In order to support her, Kirby was put forward to undertake a Team Leader/Supervisor Level 3 Programme, ideal for first time managers looking to build confidence and develop their skills.

Through the programme and Steven’s unwavering support, Kirby has transformed from someone who was lacking in self-belief to a confident and competent manager.

“My main challenge was managing older staff who had been in the company for over 20 years as they didn’t see me in a senior role and went to the Director over me. Steven believing in me made me more confident in myself and my abilities which was a big turning point. The staff then started to trust and see me as their manager.”

Steven encouraged Kirby to have daily one minute chats with her team to empower and encourage her to take control. As well as forcing her to recognise her own achievements: This included successfully leading a change in culture towards Specsavers OCT machine. Kirby hosted an intense training session with her staff, re-enforcing the training with daily one minute chats. As a result, there was a 30% uplift with patients requesting an ‘enhanced’ sight test.

Studying management theories has helped Kirby to better understand her own management style and how she can overcome the challenges she may face in the workplace.

“I have gained a lot of belief in my abilities as a manager. I am now able to support staff by being more understanding and, through self-reflection, have a better understanding of how my own emotions and actions affect others. I have also gained a lot more knowledge about the business, how to set targets and, most importantly, how to get staff to buy into meeting the targets.”

“The change in Kirby this last 12 months has been phenomenal. As it stands, Kirby has achieved in less than 2 years, what took me 10. She listens and reacts to feedback in a much more positive manner. In the early days, constructive feedback was always construed as being a ‘personal attack’, whereas now she understands that it is a medium to better her abilities. She adopts this approach to the staff she is accountable for too and now understands ‘you can give constructive feedback and still be liked’.

Kirby has lived up to the potential I saw in her and in all honesty, has surpassed my expectations, she is already indispensable to me as an employee.  I am well aware in most businesses, directors struggle to delegate and switch off when away from work…Kirby allows me this luxury and I am extremely grateful.”

“She is already a well-rounded and accomplished manager and should be proud of what she has achieved in such a short time. I am extremely proud of Kirby.”

Despite being furloughed and running the store with reduced staff numbers, Kirby successfully achieved a Distinction at EPA and has gone on to enrol on the Level 5 Operations/Departmental Manager Programme. Above all she now sees herself as the good, strong manager she was always capable of being.