You have a creche for staff and students at Nescot. Why did you decide to do this, how well has it been received and how much of a difference has it made?
Nestots, our on-site 52 place nursery was already well established when I arrived. It serves staff, students and the wider public in roughly equal numbers and gives both staff and students the opportunity to continue their studies or working day close to their youngsters.
Knowing that your little ones are being looked after in an Ofsted Good nursery, on-site and with great facilities, is a huge reassurance and means that staff can commit to a full working day at college. It is very popular, often with a waiting list, so we are excited about plans to significantly increase its size next year.
What initiatives would you like to see businesses implement to promote equality of opportunity?
Firstly, to understand that, whilst important, it is not all about women returners but enabling a much wider more diverse workforce. Giving all staff the opportunity to reskill or upskill, adapting working practices to accommodate care responsibilities and where possible adapting the workplace are all major factors in ensuring equal accessibility to the workplace and ultimately, greater productivity.
You have had a long career as Chief or Assistant Chief Executive of Borough councils. Why the move to education?
It was not a planned move as I was very happy in local government. However, I had previously been a governor at Nescot and understood the great opportunities that the college can give to students so was delighted to be asked if I would consider the role.
Changing sector and to some extent career at age 50 was challenging but incredibly rewarding and has given me a new lease of life. It is especially energising to be working in an environment with young people who are enjoying their time at college and looking forward to great careers.
What differences did you find working in these sectors?
There are many similarities between the sectors; leading large organisations usually comes back to people and organisational culture. If you can get those right you’ve won half the battle. The main difference in working in a ‘non-political sector’ is it is often easier to get things done at pace. The worlds of Further and Higher Education are constantly changing so agility and the ability to react and adapt quickly are essential.
How has your training as a solicitor helped your career?
I would like to think it has taught me to think objectively and critically and to understand different and complex issues more quickly. It also teaches you to listen and to see things from a number of perspectives. I think these are great all round life skills to have and they seem to have served me well.
Do councils and the education sector offer a level playing field for women. Has it become a fairer environment over the years?
One of my primary motivations for joining local government as a female lawyer in the days when the legal profession was more male orientated, was to create a more level playing field. In many respects, local authorities have led the way on the equality and diversity agenda. That decision was over 30 years ago and my more recent experience in the world of education has been similar, I am pleased to say.
What are your ambitions for Nescot?
I have a number of ambitions for Nescot. The first and foremost is for it to be the ‘College of Choice; for Students, Employers and for Staff’ be that for further or higher education. Getting employers, local and regional business really engaged with the college to the extent that they can contribute to and shape our curriculum is key to ensuring that our young people leave college with not just the qualifications but the skills they need to make sure they are ready for the world of work. This is something that employers tell me all the time and we are listening and adapting accordingly. I am also keen to see the college properly embedded in, and supporting local community activity and for the community to view the college as a local asset which is there for all to benefit from and enjoy using. Finally, I want to see the college continuing to grow and flourish and build on the great reputation it already has.