A view from the top: HSDC

Find out what it’s like working in the educational sector

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We spoke to Leona Berry the Vice Principal for Organisational Development & People at HSDC, to get the lowdown on working in the education sector

What was it like finding your first-ever job?

I had mixed emotions when looking for my first ever job. I was excited at the prospect of entering the world of work, learning new skills and earning some money to get me started on the road to independence. I applied for many roles, mainly in shops but quickly learnt about the disappointment of not being successful. I had an interview with ASDA and it was unlike anything I had experienced before. It was more than just an interview, it was a group selection process with about 15 people all fighting for jobs. I had no idea what to expect and my confidence level in that situation was quite low as I was new to the job seeking market and was alongside people who I considered far more experienced and more likely to get the job than someone young like me. I had just turned 16 years old.

At that moment I had a choice, I could give up and decide for myself that I wasn’t good enough or I could try my best to show what I had to offer despite my age and inexperience. I knew I could do a great job because I wanted to do a great job. I chose to fully immerse myself in the activities (we had to design and create a new brand of doughnuts) and almost forgot that I was being observed as part of an interview process. I left hoping that I had done enough and really wanted this to be the one, the one that would say yes. I received the call the following day to attend an interview with the Bakery Manager and he offered me the job, I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I had been given an opportunity and that was the start of my journey. I will be forever grateful to that manager for giving me the opportunity.

Did you always know that you wanted to work in education or was it a surprising career path for you?

To be honest, I had never considered it. When I started out I really had no idea what I wanted to do or what career path to follow. I decided to take a year away from studying after I finished my A Levels as I really didn’t know which direction I wanted to go in. I wanted to go to University but I struggled to find the right course for me. I decided that I would spend the year working which would enable me to think about my future and to earn money at the same time.

During my time at ASDA I realised that I wasn’t being challenged enough in my work and I needed something more. I had a really great relationship with my manager so I decided to tell him that I needed to be challenged and asked if there was anything more that I could do. He asked me if I would be interested in working with the bakery team to complete their mandatory training programme and assist him with the required reports. I jumped at the chance to do something different. I was really excited about the opportunity to work with the team and to help them work through the training. I learnt a lot about people, their abilities and their differences and quickly understood that one size does not fit all.

Following on from that experience, I was really fortunate to have then been offered a Training Coordinator job at the store so I developed my skills even further. This was my stepping stone into the world of Learning and Development and Human Resources. I found the education sector in 2004 when I began a role as an HR Administrator and I have not looked back.

How important is it to have young people hired at HSDC?

It is important to HSDC to be diverse and inclusive. We believe in providing opportunities and supporting young people to build and develop their skills and talents so that they can thrive in any work environment including within our organisation. It is essential to have great diversity in our staff body (as well as our student body) and we are passionate about ensuring that we offer both learning opportunities and employment opportunities for all. We challenge ourselves to ensure that we break down any barriers that prevent inclusivity. Working with young people is our core business and we love nothing more than to have students that were once taught at the college coming forward for job opportunities. It is a real cause for celebration.

How rewarding is it to work in the education sector, and if someone didn't enjoy school would you still recommend education as a career path?

I will be completely honest here. It is really tough working in the education sector but it is immensely rewarding regardless of the role you play in the organisation. Every single person in our organisation contributes to the education and development of all our students whether it be teachers in the classroom, the tech people that make sure everything works well to the support services that ensure the business runs smoothly. All the functions work together striving to provide the best experience for all students. It is a fantastic feeling to know that you are part of something great, transforming the lives of young people and helping them on their onward journey.

I would absolutely recommend education as a career path as there are so many different job roles available no matter what your career choice is. There are great opportunities for development and progression and a real sense of community. I have worked in education for 17 years progressing from the HR Administrator to my current role as Vice Principal Organisational Development & People.