Career Connect

Carmel Skidmore is one of our longest serving staff members, having worked in Careers for more than 40 years. This International Women's Day, Carmel discusses the changes she has seen in her own working life, as well as how she has seen female students think differently about the roles available to them.

What is your role at Career Connect?

I’m Senior Operations Manager for our Education and Business team.

What was your very first job?

I spent the summer after my A Levels editing and checking electoral registers and issuing bus passes to pensioners!

Did you know what you wanted to do when you were at school?

I wasn’t sure at school, and I went on to study Geography at University. When I graduated, I got a job as a Clerk with Liverpool City Council. I was offered the Housing Department and the Careers Service; I chose the Careers Service.

Along with reception and administrative duties, part of my role was helping young people sign on for benefits; unemployment at the time was high and I saw the barriers that many of them faced and how vulnerable some of them were. This made me realise that I wanted to do something involving young people.

Can you tell us about your career journey?

I went for a promotion at the Council, and an employment adviser, meeting young people and helping them to apply for jobs and training opportunities. This was when the government ran their Youth Opportunities Programme, which then became the Youth Training Scheme (YTS); these were programmes which included a training allowance for young people to train and gain work experience. There was a lot of unemployment in Liverpool at the time, so you can imagine how many young people wanted to apply. I loved helping young people get into work.

I then became an Office Manager; I’ve always loved doing administration. I oversaw duty rotas, ran the careers office, managed the appointment system, and looked after the data – it was all manual then, and we had physical registers to keep track of how many young people we were working with. Doing this made me realise my skills in organisation and the fact that I have a good memory! You often don’t know what your skills are until you have to use them!

I was very lucky to get a secondment to do the Diploma in Careers Guidance and become a fully qualified Careers Adviser. I studied at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University) and had to take exams.

I worked as a Careers Adviser in the Croxteth and Norris Green areas for a number of years in the 1980s. At that time, there were still a lot of what would be seen as traditional views, but over time that has changed. I always encouraged girls to explore opportunities that may be right for them, to include careers outside of those ‘traditional’ jobs for women at the time.

I stayed in that role until I had my first daughter; myself and a colleague, who had also had a baby, were the first people in the Careers Service to Job Share! Flexible working made a massive difference to being able to balance children and a career.

I also worked as a Careers Adviser in the Old Swan area before getting promotion to Team Leader with a responsibility of work with schools and then Team Manager, again with a specialism in 14 – 19 education, which I found really interesting and rewarding. This aspect of careers is where I have stayed. I am now Senior Operations Manager for our Education and Business Team, which provides careers guidance services for schools and colleges, and I love it!

What attracted you to the careers sector?

Being able to change someone’s future and get them to think about job sectors they may not have considered is very satisfying. It’s lovely to know you have helped a young person to follow a path where they can earn money, improve their life, and do something they like.

What does your current role involve?

As the Senior Operations Manager for our Education and Business team. I oversee the operations that support our team of Careers Advisers working in different areas of the country – I am very grateful for Microsoft Teams!

We want to increase the number of schools/colleges we work with, so meeting targets for growth is a big part of my role. Relationship management, tracking of progress against the budget and targets, and caseload management to ensure delivery requirements are met are all key aspects of my role.

We all strive to deliver the best service we can to the young people we support. I am proud of what we have achieved as a team.

I have also enjoyed developing the services and products we offer to help engage and support students. We offer sessions such as ‘Challenging Stereotypes’ where we arrange for women from a range of sectors to meet a group of students. They can’t reveal their job, but students ask questions and have to guess what they do. They leave the room and come back in their work clothes/with work equipment and reveal what their job is. The students really enjoy it and learn a lot about the wide range of careers available to them. We also run these sessions for boys.

We have recently launched ‘Get Connected’, a digital platform for schools that features careers information and activities for each year group. Students can explore their strengths and interests and track their journey. It helps schools understand the career paths that students are interested in and supports their careers programme. It was very satisfying seeing it go from an idea to a reality!

What opportunities do you get to help empower women in your role?

Promoting equality and raising aspirations among girls is a key part of what we do. Our vision at Career Connect is for a society where every individual realises their full potential, and we build that into everything.

It includes helping girls to aim higher, and not feel like they aren’t allowed to do a certain job.

We are also doing more work in primary schools, and I think that the sooner you can begin to educate children that anyone should be able to do any job, the better.

The majority of people in my team are women, and I hope that they feel I support them and encourage them in their development.

This year’s IWD theme is “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”. How can careers provision/and or employers make this happen?

When it comes to careers provision, I think seeing real life examples of women doing great things makes a big difference. Creating opportunities for girls to meet employers, and seeing women doing those jobs, makes a significant impact on removing barriers. That could include mock interviews, careers fairs or the challenging stereotypes sessions I mentioned.

Seeing other women do great things is also important when you are in the workplace. We are lucky at Career Connect to have Sheila as our CEO, and women in key roles on our SLT.

In workplaces, flexibility is very important. I benefited from being able to do a job share and flexible hours, and it allowed me to progress in my career and look after my daughters.

What is your number one piece of advice for a woman/girl considering her career path?

Always believe that you can do anything. Believe in yourself and your abilities.

I have two daughters and I have always told them – and their friends – that they can do anything.

It’s also very important to research your options and what the reality of a job involves. Don’t let it put you off, but be aware, so you don’t get a shock!

I’ve been very lucky in having lots of encouragement and strong female role models in my family, who have been in male-dominated industries where they are competing against men for prestigious roles. I hope that I have also been a good role model for the young women I have supported and the women I have worked with.

When women support women, we can do anything.



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