Inspirational Women in Apprenticeships conference
This is the 2nd instalment of the incredible Apprenticeship4England’s Inspirational Women in Apprenticeships Conference. You can read all about the morning session here.
During the lunch break there was a real buzz at the Welcome Centre in Coventry – lots of networking, sharing stories and positivity!
In the morning, I’d shared the story of a Forbes article naming the ‘Top 100 Innovative Leaders’ in the US – which shockingly only included 1 woman! The list had been compiled by a group of men – which really highlights the importance of diversity. They couldn’t even find a photo of Barbara Rentler – they’d replaced her photograph with a silhouette of a….man! So we’ve found a photo of her – Barbara Rentler, we salute you!
The afternoon started with Jane Hadfield, Health Education England’s national senior programme manager. She said that as a young girl, she was determined not to follow her mum’s footsteps and go into nursing – but she actually did go into that vocation. Her mum was a huge inspiration to her, and she has inherited a lot of her traits. Jane is dedicated to her role, and she told us that since she lost her husband suddenly to sepsis, she’s been determined to make a difference by influencing high-level decisions in the NHS.
Next up was self-professed disruptor Lucy Dunleavy, CEO and founder of LearnBox. She grabbed everyone’s attention by announcing that she was going to talk about the f word……feminism. She said if she had a pound every time she asked someone what equal opportunities are and they said, ‘treating people the same’, she’d be a millionaire. Lucy explained that equality isn’t about treating everyone same – if you had a deaf child you wouldn’t teach them the same as hearing kids in the class. It’s about equaling the playing field to give everyone the same opportunities.
Our next speaker was Edyta White, apprenticeship delivery manager for OneHousing. Edyta said that it’s important to be authentic, to know what your own definition of perfection is, but to also know what other people’s definition is. She told a story about her son’s birthday which she thought she’d planned and executed perfectly. She was so pleased with herself – everything was perfect. But when she asked her son how he found it – he said it was the worst day of his life. It wasn’t his view of perfection.
Edyta advised everyone to find a critical friend – someone who has the courage to give you feedback and your has best interests at heart.
Cheyenne Vessey, one of OneHousing’s apprentices, was at the conference too. Edyta said she’s an incredible young woman who is invaluable to the business. She loves how Cheyenne challenges her. If Edyta asks her to jump, she doesn’t say how high – she asks why you want me to jump? What is the reason? Is there a better way?
Marie-Claire O’Brien was next on the stage. She’s the founder of New Leaf Initiative CIC which supports young offenders to change their lives using holistic and person-centred services. Marie-Claire spoke so honestly about her life – how she had a great life until her parents split up and her dad sadly passed away. Marie-Claire described how her life went into turmoil. She abused alcohol and drugs, which tragically ended with a car crash and Marie-Claire spending time in prison. This has given her experience of the prison system that she is now so passionate about.
It has been proven that prisoners who receive education in prison have a lower chance of reoffending once released. Marie-Claire has been fighting to get the funding rules for prisoners changed. Prisoners aren’t classed as being in employment and the DfE has agreed to try and change the definition for prisoners to enable them to access the apprenticeship system.
Angela interviewed a panel of apprentices which included Sophie Chater (BPiF), Megan Caldwell and Bethany Vickers (WYLP). All the apprentices talked about the development opportunities that their apprenticeships have given them and said that they‘d like to see more strong female role models in the future.
The final speaker of the day was the one and only Lindsay McCurdy. She hardly ever speaks at her own conferences, so it was a rare occasion indeed. Lindsay spoke about hating school, but finding out at 35 years old that she was actually dyslexic. At 45 her husband had had numerous heart attacks and was unable to work. They had 5 young children at the time, so Lindsay needed to become the breadwinner. After going into sales placing apprentices, she set up a LinkedIn group and one day arranged a meet up. 100 people turned up and Apprenticeships4England was born!
Lindsay said that the biggest growing demographic in the workplace is menopausal women, but that a quarter consider leaving work due to the pressures of the symptoms. She also talked about men’s mental health and suicide rates, and what can be done to support men at work.
Lindsay spoke about how she wants to stop the negativity in the sector and share positivity, which is why set up these conferences.
I wrapped up the day with a summary of the fantastic speakers’ lessons:
- Seize every opportunity that is presented to you
- Everyone has a different journey and each one is valid
- Be authentic – be you. Anything else is exhausting!
- Be confident
- Have a role model and be a role model
- Pay it forward – people have supported us on our journeys, it is up to us to support others
The feedback about the event has been mind-blowing once again. People said they weren’t sure what to expect, but it had been the best conference they’ve ever attended. Some attendees even said they were buzzing with inspiration and positivity. It really is the biggest honour to chair the conference and I hope to see everyone at the next one!
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