my brilliant career - human resources

Published: 27/06/2002, Volume II2, No. 5811 Page 34 35

Education, training and development are key to attracting the people and creating the skills the NHS plan demands. Lyn Whitfield meets an education and development manager

Name: Sarah James

Title: Education and development manager, King's College Hospital trust

Age: 40 Salary:£36,000-£46,500

Describe your job

I ensure that education, training and development all support the strategic direction of the trust - we want to play our part in the delivery of improved services to the local population. I have management responsibility for a small team that aims to do this.

How has your career developed?

I started my working life as a retail management trainee with Selfridges on the grounds that since I liked shopping I should be good at buying.

Unfortunately, at the junior level, it was really boring. It was good for the customer service ethos, but I wanted to do something more worthwhile. Also, I realised that to get on I would need a degree, so I went to Aston University. After that, my first job was at Leicester city council, working in equal opportunities. They felt I was too young for a promotion, so I went to work for a small management consultancy, PBA Ltd. That was really good because it was based in London and I was able to work with several public sector organisations. After a while, I moved into resource management at the Whittington Hospital, then moved on a work secondment to St George's, Tooting, as assistant director of HR.

This was made substantive after one year. I came to King's in 1999 and have been here for twoand-a-half years.

What do you like about King's?

There is a 'let's try it' attitude: a sense of 'let's give it a go and see what happens'. It means that the whole HR department can be proactive.

King's has won a number of awards for its HR recently. The latest was for a skills escalator. How did that develop?

When we started this, we did not think of it as a skills escalator: the terminology has caught up with us. We had a lot of people working at a fairly low level for whom morale was not that great. We have a good NVQ co-ordinator and she started putting people through NVQs at levels 2 and 3. Then we added in some basic skills assessment to pick up people who needed help putting a portfolio together. Once people have done level 3 they can be seconded to university, but we strongly suggest they do a return-to-study course first. We require people to work for us afterwards, but most have been here for six to 10 years and have family locally, so they are committed to the trust. The first two qualified nurses will return in September, which is exciting.

What qualifications do you hold?

A BSc in managerial and administrative studies, and a postgraduate diploma in personnel management from Leicester Polytechnic (now de Montfort University). I have done various other courses and am a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

What are your strengths?

I am quite good at reflective learning: working out what worked and what didn't, and seeing what is worth trying again. I think I have an analytical mind and am quite good at making links between things. I also believe I am able to see the big picture and think strategically as well as individually. I enjoy helping people to develop.

What has been the high point of your career?

The recognition that HR can make a difference through winning various awards. It shows that HR is not just an administrative function - it does help to make healthcare better.

And the low point?

I have been in several organisations where I have had to make people redundant and that has been very difficult.

What else might you have done?

Loads of things. I always thought I wanted to be a barrister, but during my degree we had to study law and I was hopeless at it.

What do you do to relax?

I have an eight-year-old son, who makes me laugh even though I spend a lot of time chauffeuring him around. And I like relaxing with friends over a glass of wine.

What are your ambitions?

I would not like to be a director of HR, I would prefer to continue in the education and development direction, perhaps moving into consultancy work within the public sector.

Do you have any career advice?

There is no need to stay with something you do not like. Take the chance to change direction. I respect healthcare assistants who try to improve themselves, because they are doing something so different. They have energy and determination. l Just the job

Title: Variable. Different organisations may have postgraduate centre managers, training managers, education and development managers. Most will have somebody in charge of training and development.

Salary: As variable as the title. The Association of Healthcare Human Resource Management's annual pay survey shows that heads of functions just below director level earn£20,000-£46,500.

Status: Rising all the time. The government's emphasis on HR issues means no organisation can afford to ignore education and development any more.

Prospects: Working Together, Learning Together , the first ever 'lifelong learning' strategy for the NHS, was published last year, consolidating some targets and setting new ones. For example, all NHS employers should be operating a 'skills escalator' by December 2004. Training and development managers face an exciting but challenging future.