Scottish Careers Week 2022 is back from 7-11 November and schools, employers, and career practitioners are all encouraged to get involved.
The campaign comes at an important time for people across the country as they deal with the cost-of-living crisis, the ongoing fall-out of the pandemic, and the climate emergency.
As people think about their career and education choices in response to these pressures, Scottish Careers Week will crucially help people of all ages access and understand the opportunities out there, and the support available to them.
We currently offer a huge range of programmes, opportunities and learning and development sessions to support our entire workforce, and to celebrate Scottish Careers week, each day we will highlight the programmes that we currently support and shine a spotlight on some of our colleagues from across the business who will share their stories, hints and tips for career success!
To start us off, we have produced a full Careers proposition for Kingdom Housing Association, really highlighting the programmes and learning opportunities available. Have a read!
As part of careers week we would like to introduce you to Fern Barclay who was part of our New Career Trainee Programme. Fern is now our Health and Safety Advisor and very recently won Apprentice Of The Year at the CIH Awards which was a fantastic achievement. She has demonstrated that if you have the drive and determination and change of career is possible and she has made a great success of the programme that Kingdom offers. Fern shared with us what a typical day looks like for her….
A Day in the Life Of a Health & Safety Advisor.
How did you get into a career in Health & Safety?
After graduating university I worked as a manager after completing my graduate trainee scheme. A few years into it I was looking for a change and saw Kingdom advertising for a “Change of Career” trainee in Health & Safety. The role really interested me as it was something totally different to what I had done and I was able to study whilst working. I started as a trainee in August 2019 and became a Health and Safety Advisor in July 2022.
What are the key responsibilities in your role?
I am responsible for providing a client centred health and safety service giving advice and support to staff and all levels of management in accordance with current legislation and good practice so that all situations are dealt with consistently, fairly and fully comply with health and safety legislation. I work with and support staff and managers to deliver a safe and healthy environment for all staff, contractors and visitors.
I work to promote the development of a strong health and safety culture in respect of our role as an employer, our client role as a developer of housing, landlord and service provider throughout the Kingdom Group, so that all staff are aware of their responsibilities and are trained and supported in carrying them out effectively.
Describe a typical day.
There’s never really a typical day in Health & Safety as things change so quickly, the variety is something that I really enjoy about the role. Usually I start by checking my emails and prioritising what I need to do that day. Tasks with tight deadlines such as accident reporting (which thankfully doesn’t happen weekly or even monthly) take a lead. If there are audits going on then I work through them and slot other tasks into my day such as work for different departments like risk assessments, meetings where I advise, or communication with contractors.
What skills do you need for this role?
Knowledge of Health & Safety is a given – I’ve completed my Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Managing Safely course, my National Examination Board of Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) National General Certificate and am currently working towards my NEBOSH Diploma. As well as this it’s really important to keep up-to-date with changes in legislation and guidance.
You also need to be organised and flexible – as I said there’s a lot of variety in the role and this means there can be some reactive work which can often involve moving tasks around.
It’s also really important to also have good attention to detail. In my role I carry out audits, inspections and a lot of risk assessments so noticing things other people might not can come in handy when trying to keep everyone safe at work.
Although this isn’t a typical customer facing role it does help to be a personable and approachable person as this makes communicating much easier and means that people feel comfortable coming to you for advice.
What challenges do you face in this role?
Keeping up to date with changing legislation as we work to a lot of different regulations. As well as ensuring Kingdom is compliant and meeting its statutory duties in relation to health and safety. A lot of legislation we work to can be quite vague and open to interpretation so applying it to real life can sometimes be a challenge, however this is where my studying comes in handy.
6 months into my traineeship COVID-19 hit and this was a massive challenge as health and safety played a big part in fighting against it with new restrictions in place and essentially everyone experiencing something like it for the first time. However, this was also a big learning experience for me in working reactively and problem solving.
What keeps you motivated to go into work every day?
Knowing that I’m making a difference in the work that I do by keeping people safe at work. The variety in my work also keeps me motivated as I get to be involved in a lot of different projects and definitely keeps things interesting!
What advice would you give someone considering a career in Health & Safety?
Don’t think of Health & Safety as it is so often stereotyped – putting red tape up and saying “no” with the only reason being “because of health and safety.” Instead think of it as a supportive role that finds ways to say yes whilst still being compliant and keeping everyone healthy and safe.
Although Health & Safety has so many topics within it, don’t be overwhelmed or overthink the legislation and guidance out there – a lot of it is thinking logically and using common sense (although everyone’s common sense differs!).
Involve employees as much as possible in health and safety – since I don’t have experience of every department’s day-to-day life in Kingdom, it’s really important to involve teams in things like risk assessments because they are the people actually doing the job and overall makes for better quality work.
To ensure we help young people into the workplace Kingdom supported the 6-week Handpicked Programme by CR Smith. This was delivered at Auchmuty High School in Glenrothes and it helped equip some of their young people with valuable employability skills and some practical advice that they can put into practice when they start seeking employment.
To continue our work with Developing The Young Workforce (DYWF) Fife we have also been attending employability events and most recently we have been at Dunfermline High School and Woodmill High School. These events allow us to share our knowledge with young people and raise awareness of what opportunities we can provide.
This year we are also continuing our commitment to the Career Ready Programme. This will see 2 senior phase pupils complete a 4-week internship at Kingdom and they will be mentored by Maureen Dickson (HR Manager) and Ken Tudhope (Executive Director of Finance). We will continue our support and commit to these valuable programmes into next year and beyond.
To round off Careers Week 2022, we asked colleagues across different departments in KHA to sum up their careers so far, tell us about any future career ambitions and to give one piece of advice to anyone who wants to progress in their career.
This is what they said:
Bill Banks, Kingdom Group Chief Executive:
“Working in the housing sector wasn’t my first career path, however after various jobs in hotel management and project management, I secured a post in corporate planning with the local authority. After a couple of years I moved to Kingdom Housing Association in an administrative role. I joined Kingdom when it was starting up as a housing association and I quickly developed skills and experience project managing our new build housing programme. As Kingdom grew, I undertook increased responsibilities, continued to develop my learning and development and gained experience in many aspects of the business. I wanted to progress my career and felt a way to do this was to continue gaining experience and qualifications. I’ve spent over 35 years at Kingdom working in various roles and in 2012 I was appointed as Chief Executive. I feel I have pursued and achieved my career ambitions over the years, through hard work and continual learning and development. If I could give anyone any career advice, it would be to pursue a career in an organisation that you enjoy working in, never stop learning on the job, pursue qualifications to assist your career, support and respect your colleagues and do a job you enjoy, given you will spend many years doing it!”
Susan McDonald – Executive Director of Operations:
“Prior to moving to work within housing associations I was a lawyer and had a very standard legal career. After university I trained with a small firm in Edinburgh and then joined a larger firm and worked my way up eventually to being a partner but I was always interested in social housing after spending some time volunteering with the Legal Services Agency as a student which included preparing updates for tenants on the – then very new – Housing (Scotland) Act 1988 ! I was lucky to find a role at a law firm with a social housing team and spent 25 years specialising in social housing and advising RSLs, local authorities and the Scottish Government on all aspects of housing law – everything from Right to Buy sales up to large regeneration projects.
I also joined the Board of a housing association and after a few years realised that I was getting more satisfaction from that role rather than the day job so decided to see if I could make the move to working within an RSL. I secured a 12 month role as the interim director of a small community housing association in Glasgow which was an ideal position as it let me try it out before making a permanent commitment but I realised within a few months that this was definitely what I wanted to do for the remainder of my career. I started looking for a permanent role just as Kingdom advertised the new – and incredibly interesting – role of Executive Director of Operations so timing was perfect.
My main career ambition at the moment is to get my CIH Level 5 qualification ! Seriously though, I feel there is still so much I can do in my current role to make a difference within Kingdom and for our customers so I can see myself doing this for a good while yet.
My advice for anyone looking to progress their career would be to find a role that plays to your strengths but more importantly excites you and gives you a real purpose as that is what really keeps it interesting.”
Grant McManus – Senior Project Officer:
“My Housing career started back in August 2019, where I was fortunate enough to secure a Graduate Traineeship in Kingdom Housing Associations Capital Investment Team. The three year Graduate Traineeship was a great experience which offered me the unique opportunity to explore the sector through a number of internal and external placements, whilst also completing my MSc in Housing Studies. Having now completed the traineeship and secured a permanent position as a Senior Project Officer, I am excited to continue contributing to our exciting new build programme, strengthening my knowledge of the sector whilst doing so. One piece of advice I would give to anyone looking to progress in their career is to grasp any learning opportunity available to you, and do not be afraid to embark on further studies.”
Kelly Gillies – Maintenance Officer:
“My journey at Kingdom began in 2019, I had previously worked at Fife Chamber of Commerce. I started my career at Fife Chamber as Admin Assistant and over the years I gained knowledge, experience and skills where I became the Events Executive. After over 11 years at the Chamber I was ready for a new challenge and applied for the Career Change opportunity at Kingdom Housing Association. It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to embark on a new and exciting phase. This move provided me with 3 years training with a team with a wealth of knowledge as well as returning to college for 2 years to gain my construction qualification. I have thrived on learning new skills and delighted to now be a fully qualified Maintenance Officer within the Maintenance Team from earlier in 2022. I would be eager to develop myself further in the future at Kingdom. If I could give anyone advice around progressing their career I would have to say, absolutely do it – go for it, don’t put barriers in your way you’ll only regret it, don’t live with “what if” you can do anything when you set your mind to it.”