Occupation: Consultant in Education
What was your first job and how did it mould your future?
My first job, after graduating from The University of Hull, was as a Trainee Buyer, then Buyer, for Fenwick of Newcastle and York Ltd. My five years with Fenwick Ltd gave me a great understanding of the retail industry and the importance of excellent communication and customer service. It also taught me that loyalty, hard work and commitment pay off. (I delivered a Christmas present to a little boy on Christmas Day, as the present came into stock too late to be delivered on time. The customer was delighted and so was my line manager!) My five years in retail moulded my future as I strongly believe that excellent communication and customer service is at the heart of any successful business, whatever the sector.
What is your biggest achievement to date so far?
My biggest achievement to date is balancing senior management roles in the Further Education Sector with bringing up my two daughters. Both now have successful careers of their own.
What is your role and purpose as an Optimum Skills Stakeholder member?
My role and purpose as an Optimum Skills Stakeholder is to use my many years
of experience in Further Education and Industry to support staff at Optimum
Skills and to challenge decision-makers when required. It is paramount that the
learner remains at the heart of everything that goes on at Optimum Skills. I have
taught many subjects, across lots of levels from entry to degree. I have worked at
senior management level in both Curriculum and Business Development, so I fully
understand the issues that can arise and the importance of supporting staff and
managing change effectively. I am also happy to help out with observations of
teaching and learning, or delivery of taught sessions, when staff are ill or unavailable.
What qualities and experience do you bring to Optimum Skills?
My experience in the further education sector is extensive. I spent years teaching Health and Social Care and managed an extremely successful Access to HE Programme. I have taught Business and Management, as well as Business Communication for the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I also taught the Psychology/ Sociology module on the Degree Nursing Programme, for Teesside University. This experience really helps me to empathise with the teaching staff at Optimum Skills, as well as to have a good understanding of the quality aspects of provision. I also know the realities of teaching, the long hours and hard work that is required and the pressures that a visit from Ofsted can bring. I have contributed to six Inspections over the years. In addition to this, my studies at University have continued to influence my life. My favourite module was Sociology. I always try to treat people as I would like to be treated and believe in fairness and equality. I want to do all I can to maximise the life chances of local people. The mission, vision and values of Optimum Skills reflect this exactly.
What do you believe are the main strengths of Optimum Skills?
It has a dedicated leadership team that genuinely wants the best for its learners, customers, staff members and stakeholders. There is a culture of constant improvement and genuine responsiveness to change. (Look at how well Optimum Skills responded to COVID 19). Everyone has a voice. There is transparency.
What do you believe are the main challenges for Optimum Skills?
There are many challenges ahead, not least of which is trying to find staff to deliver in some sectors, particularly Construction, where individuals can earn more working on site. Changes in Government and policy are always on the horizon, as well as Covid mutating into something more awful. Whatever happens, I am confident that Optimum Skills will rise to the challenge.
What advice would you give anyone reading your profile?
The advice that I would give to anyone reading my profile is to take each day as
it comes, communicate openly and transparently, be committed, work hard and always be flexible and responsive. If things go wrong, learn from experience and move on.