Please tell us briefly about your career to date and what you are most proud of achieving
"I started my career as a teacher in Salford before moving into community education in Falkirk. In 2008 I made a move into the VCFS when I started work at the Anne Frank Trust UK - an anti-prejudice charity – where I established its work in Scotland and had my first experience of working in Senior Leadership as Head of Education Development. Since 2018 I've been Chief Executive at Age UK Doncaster, a charity and SME providing home care and other services to help older people live and age well.
"I’ve led an organisation that does essential work through COVID – a team effort with really dedicated colleagues. I’m also proud that during this time, I’ve partnered with four other charities to establish a new CIC, CASEwork, allowing us to pool resources to share back-office functions. We have ambitions to provide solutions for other third sector organisations in the future. Finally, completing my degree and gaining a teaching qualification while being a young single parent with a young daughter is something I look back on with pride. Though long ago, it taught me I was resilient - without a doubt it’s meant I’ve faced subsequent changes and challenges with determination and confidence."
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Doncaster businesses today?
"I think it’s hard to select just one challenge, but I’d say a very immediate issue for many businesses in Doncaster, big and small, is around recruitment and retention. Vacancy levels remain at a record high so getting the right people in the right place and enough of them is a constant challenge. Pre-pandemic and EU exit, my own sector of social care was already facing a recruitment crisis but is in no way the only sector affected – something illustrated recently with the focus on the lorry driver shortage.
"I’ve selected this as the single biggest challenge because people are the lifeblood of any business, not only because delivery of services relies on them but because under-staffing and staff churn put enormous pressure on other colleagues at all levels within an organisation. It’s all too easy for this to create fragility that destabilises individual businesses (and occasionally whole sectors) with knock-on effects on supply chains and services and those that rely on them.
"For me the past couple of years have highlighted the importance of key workers and the need to appreciate these are skilled roles that need to be recognised with decent remuneration and respect."
What is the best thing about Doncaster and what do you think are the borough’s biggest opportunities?
|"I love the collective ambition I see in Doncaster every day. There’s a drive to do things better both in business and Doncaster’s wider leadership and it’s done with the motivation of wanting the best for the people of Doncaster. It’s a set of values put into action that I subscribe to and I feel proud to say that Age UK Doncaster does too.
Doncaster has a wealth of assets, is enviously connected with a track record of innovation. We’re on the brink of a huge opportunity to build on this success to become even more business-friendly and engender further success e.g. through bidding for City Status and aiming to have the Great British Railways HQ located in Doncaster.
As important to me is that we have an opportunity in the wake of the pandemic to genuinely build back better – COVID widened inequalities and showed our interdependency. Success measured purely in economic terms is meaningless unless accompanied by increased wellbeing that is inclusive of all the communities that make up Doncaster. It is also meaningless if done at the expense of the planet. We have an opportunity to help business thrives while contributing to a fairer and greener Doncaster."
What would you like Doncaster Chamber’s priorities to be for the next 12 months?
|"One set of priorities needs to look inwards to consolidate the Chamber (DC) itself and one that looks outward, supporting business locally and influencing regionally and nationally. There’s also one priority that links the two which is growth of membership – this will allow the Chamber to support more businesses more easily whilst increasing its own financial resilience and independence
"Looking outward, it’s crucial that DC continues to build on its excellent work in linking young people in education and training with employers. I’d especially like to see a growth in supporting adults with retraining and lifelong learning in order to help them fulfil their potential and help businesses benefit from their life experience. I’ve already touched on the urgency of recruitment and retention but related to that is the increase in NLW and NI – potentially both can have a positive impact but many employers will be feeling this is a burning issue in its implications. I’d like DC to help businesses navigate this challenge. Regionally, it’s important to utilise SCR opportunities yet act as a counterpoint to Sheffield; nationally to lobby for genuine levelling-up in the borough."
What would you like the Chamber to be famous for in three years’ time?