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From Funding Manager to Product Manager: building digital capability at the ESFA

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Agile, Apprenticeship service, Employer Digital Service

Product Manager, Andy, and another colleague having a meeting

My name’s Andy and I’ve worked for the Education and Skills Funding Agency for nearly eight years. For the past year, I have been helping to lead the delivery of the new apprenticeship service in my role as product manager.

I’ve never worked on digital projects before - and it’s been a steep learning curve! I’m thriving from working with team members who have such a variety of skills, and the mix of challenges I’m faced with.

How delivery works

The apprenticeship service has a number of components that empower employers and training organisations to work together and train apprentices. This includes tools for recruiting apprentices, recording the specific details of their training and allowing large employers to use the funds in their account to pay for training.

Each part of the apprenticeship service has been built by an agile team. All teams are located in the same office in Coventry. This allows us to work together and share ideas.

Our teams are made up of people with the different skills needed to create each product: as software developers, user researchers, web designers, policy makers, product managers and delivery managers. These teams contain a mix of civil servants and temporary contractors. It is important that civil servants, such as myself, learn from the contractors in order to permanently improve our expertise and the way we build services.  

Funding background

Prior to my current role, I managed the funding that the ESFA provides for a variety of further education and skills initiatives, including apprenticeships. My funding knowledge was the reason that I was brought into the project as a product manager. My team ensures that payments to training providers are correct and have been agreed by the employers – particularly when this involves the apprenticeship levy.

As a product manager, my job is to make sure that the right things are built at the right time to allow the service to improve and grow. I consider user needs, as well as policy directives and technical capability, to make sure the product we build is user-friendly and meets government objectives. I also show the product we’re building to user groups in order to gain valuable feedback, which I can then use to make further improvements.  


We use a community of practice (also known as a “clan”) for each profession within our project teams. This is a regular forum for us to learn from colleagues in other teams facing different challenges. It also ensures that we work as one, as the service grows. I lead the product manager clan. New product managers are able to quickly learn from more experienced product managers. We have all received mentoring and a great deal of support through this.

Our product manager group is part of a wider government community. Ross Ferguson, who leads the wider community for the Government Digital Service, has visited us in Coventry. We were able to show him how we are building the apprenticeship service, as well as hear how things are done in other government departments. This relationship will continue in the future.

Building capability

I look forward to continuing my journey as part of this, and contributing to government digital products being better than ever.

Watch this blog for regular updates, or follow @ESFADigital on Twitter. If you have any questions or issues accessing the apprenticeship service, email or call 0800 015 0600.


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  1. Comment by Jessica G posted on

    Great post Andy - keep up the great work!

  2. Comment by Jp posted on

    Nice insight! Enjoyed!

  3. Comment by Liz posted on

    Sounds excellent, keep us posted please.