Janine is the STEM Hub Contract Manager and we caught up with her to find out what her role involves, what a typical day in the STEM team looks like, the challenges, and the proudest moments in her career to date…
Can you briefly explain your background and how you got to work in STEM?
Having worked in the education arena for over 28 years I have witnessed many changes and enjoyed a rich and varied career. Starting firstly in the Higher Education field and then moving into the world of enterprise animation followed by STEM enrichment, the common thread running throughout, is my passion for supporting young people’s development whilst working collaboratively with a multitude of partners and stakeholders.
Whilst working in a university setting I linked to all regional schools highlighting the importance of considering career choices and diverse routes into education and then the workplace. This focused generally on Higher Education and then more formally on routes into Technology, Engineering and STEM as a whole. I managed people, and events, implemented promotional campaigns to target the industry and education sectors, and developed materials to support the national curriculum for technology, business studies, work-related learning and enterprise. This highlighted my passion for working with young people, teachers, parents and schools whilst dipping my toe into the world of enterprise and STEM.
Building on this enterprise experience I then moved into developing and delivering training materials across a number of education and business areas. These included support and training for design and creative industries, the digital sector as well as enterprise and entrepreneurship. With experience in coaching and mentoring individuals who are considering self-employment, I enjoyed helping people, including children, to overcome barriers to enterprise. I developed and delivered workshops to increase entrepreneurial behaviour, increase motivation and develop skills for business.
I enjoyed the challenge of Enterprise Animation but then the world of STEM enrichment and supporting the increase of STEM capital really offered the opportunity to bridge the gap between education and industry. Leading the North East STEM Hub and education team at RTC North every day is different, exciting, exhausting but fulfilling and I consider myself working in the best industry with the best people …. I love it !!
What are the key responsibilities in your role?
With experience in the educational and business landscape across the North East region, I head up the Education and STEM team at RTC North. Drawing on my experience as a trainer and business coach, I am passionate about translating this to the educational environment and this is particularly true in my current role which focuses on bridging the gap between education and industry. Currently, myself and the team at RTC North broker links between education and industry, enabling young people of all backgrounds and abilities to understand real-world applications of STEM subjects and experience activities that motivate, inspire and bring learning and career opportunities to life. This is achieved through working with businesses that equally experience the wide-reaching beneﬁts of working with education. These benefits include direct access to a talent pipeline and future workforce, staff training, development and retention opportunities and a hugely valuable method of increasing company brand awareness. Being involved in such an important, varied and ever-evolving environment that provides real impact truly drives my passion forward.
As the STEM team leader, my main role is to oversee the team and its strategic direction, although the best part of my job is when I can get out and work directly with students. Providing robust STEM enrichment programmes for young people really does change lives and makes individuals recognise their potential and the full range of opportunities that are available to them. Raising aspirations and providing inspirational activity is just the best part of my job. Whilst recognising the importance of supporting young people and education, I do also understand that as a region, an industry-led approach is a key to success in the skills arena. Working in collaboration with regional stakeholders and partners, my ambition is to ensure the local economy has full access to a skilled workforce to meet current and future demands.
The final area of responsibility as team leader is of course to ensure that all targets and KPIs across our programmes are met and surpassed by our funders. As a team, we are passionate about delivering robust, successful programmes for all.
Describe a typical day.
The best and most fantastic element of my job is that there is never a typical day! Every day is varied and actually, every part of the working day is different from one point to the next. If I had to describe, as closely as I can, a normal day I would say it consists of monitoring progress against targets and KPIs and reporting back to our funders, meeting with the STEM team members and understanding any issues and difficulties they are encountering but also their successes and “wins”. It would also include virtual or now face to face meetings with current partners to ensure we work in a collaborative and joined-up manner or investigating new programmes and funding opportunities to partner with as a collective. It would also include getting out and about meeting new clients and marketing the work we do as The North East STEM Hub, attending and presenting at partner/member board meetings and if it was a really BRILLIANT day then it would be going into a school and the classroom and working directly with a group of students.
What would you say are the most challenging aspects of your role?
The most challenging parts of the role are to manage the expectations of partners and funders. As a small team, we deliver high impact and quality programmes that take enormous amounts of time to develop and deliver. This demands full commitment from the team and as a small group of people with a large patch to cover and a big job to do we often can’t just respond to requests at the “ drop of a hat “. Due to the success of the team to date, we now receive lots of last-minute requests for activity and support and the biggest challenge is to focus on what we can do and can achieve whilst then referring into other partners and stakeholders for the requests we just have to say no to. The ability to focus on the real areas of need and the job at hand is the biggest challenge.
What do you enjoy most, or what are you most proud of in your job?
Whilst I enjoy working with young people because of their honesty and passion for what the future holds, what I am most proud of is the STEM team and the work that we collectively have achieved over the years. I am still astounded at the team’s drive and commitment every day to make a difference in the lives of our regional young people. The day in day out creativity shown by them to develop new programmes to reach young people is just incredible from the one to one mentoring activity to the large scale Festivals and events that reach over 35,000 students and everything in between. I am very proud of the reach and the difference that such a small but dedicated team can make. I am also incredibly proud that as a small internal team, working with a larger extended team of STEM Ambassadors, industry partners and regional stakeholders we constantly put the North East on the map as a place of excellence with regards to STEM education and animation.
What is one truth that would surprise your colleagues about
Whilst I love being around people and seem very confident to the outside world when it comes to presenting and just being ready and willing to jump into new things at the drop of a hat I am actually more introverted than I appear and really do need downtime to think, take stock and just get ready to take on the next thing which is already looming on the horizon.