Tag: "featured"

Changing Career through volunteering with the Army Cadet Force

Changing Career through volunteering with the Army Cadet Force

Kim Green is a single mother of two teenage sons, an incident management coordinator, and a Sergeant Instructor with the Army Cadet Force. For many, changing career, holding down a full time job, finding the time to volunteer and bringing up two children all at the same time might seem like an impossible task, but as Kim’s story shows, a little self-belief can go a long way.

As a single Mum I have the honour of being both Mum and Dad in our house – hard work but the rewards far outweigh the tiredness. I don’t like to see myself as anyone special; I’m the sort of person that just gets the job done. I first properly learned about the Army Cadet Force when my eldest son joined. He would tell me about all the fun he had on weekends away, what they taught, and all the things he was learning in his unit. I did know the ACF existed before this, as I had tried to join back in 1979 when I was just 11, but at that time girls weren’t allowed to join.

Joining the ACF wasn’t really my decision

When I’d go to pick up my eldest son the other adult instructors would always ask me whether I was interested in helping out and volunteering. After politely declining for two years, one day I went into the ACF stores for a pair of boots and ended up coming out as an adult instructor – I’ve never looked back!

Since joining the ACF, I’ve completely changed career

Before joining, I was working in finance, in a steady office environment. However, through volunteering and teaching young adults in one way or another over the years, I gained the confidence and skills needed to try out a career in the classroom. I then moved onto a career as a curriculum cover assistant within the classrooms at my local secondary school; I loved the moment of realisation when a young person finally sees what I have seen in them all along, and truly believes they can achieve something great. I recently changed careers again, and now work as an incident management coordinator, allowing me to put even more of my ACF experience to use.

Although I love my job now, I know that with the ACF I’ll have earned the skills and experience for a number of other careers. For example, I’d love to work as an outreach worker in the future, helping

those who need it the most. I could even move into the outdoors and adventurous training side of things!

The same skills I have used to raise my sons on my own are the same skills I use within cadets, and it seems to work

As both my sons are cadets, the Army Cadet Force really is a family affair for all of us. I feel we’ve all gained so much out of being in the ACF. My sons have seen me work hard and never give up at my commitments, and I like to think that the combined influence of myself and being a cadet has had a great impact on them both. Watching throughout cadets, I’ve seen them both grow into confident, active young men. For my youngest, I feel that the ACF has given him perspective, and helped him work through difficult situations to see the bigger picture.

This is something I absolutely love doing

I love to help and be of help, and I love being a female adult instructor, as I can roll my experience as a mother and as a mentor into one. I only have one regret, which is coming to the cadet force at an older age. I wish I’d have been involved in this years ago; I know I could have achieved so much more than I already have done.

Author: Kim Green is a Sergeant Instructor at the Royal County of Berkshire Army Cadet Force. Find out more about volunteering with the ACF as an adult

Thinking of starting your own business? Here are 10 top tips for budding entrepreneurs

Thinking of starting your own business? Here are 10 top tips for budding entrepreneurs

If you’re considering self-employment or starting your own business then you’re not alone. According to a report last year from the Office for National Statistics, self-employment in the UK is at its highest level since records began, with more than 4.6million people now working for themselves.

Going it alone can be an exciting but daunting task and that’s why plenty of preparation, harnessing your existing skills and seeking as much guidance as possible will all be key to help make your dream a success. Below are 10 tips we’ve pulled together to help you get started on your start-up journey.

  1. Do something you’re passionate about

It’s very hard work running a business, especially in the start-up stage, so it really helps if it’s something you’re passionate about. Doing something you enjoy rarely feels like ‘work’ and that feeling can be priceless!

  1. Do something you have experience and skills in

When entering self-employment you will inevitably learn new skills, however always try to maximise your existing skills and experience. Do a thorough audit of your personal and professional skills, and then use them to their full potential to kick-start your business idea.

It’s also great to harness the skills of those around you. Got a friend who is social media savvy? Asking them to give you some tips to help you promote your business online could prove to be invaluable.

  1. Access as much training as possible

One of the main reasons businesses fail in the first year is due to a lack of business training, so get as much information and advice as possible. The ongoing research for your business should include your own continuing professional development. Attending business training sessions can be tricky if your time is limited. Online programmes such as Outset Online are one example of free training available for those looking to start their own business that contain a wealth of information and can be accessed online, in your own time. Log on and get started.

  1. Increase your network

Everyone needs a good network of contacts to do well. Map what contacts you already have and let them know your plans, as they can be useful for support, information and a source of referrals.

Seek to expand your network through these contacts and also by attending formal networking events. Some local events can be found at www.findnetworkingevents.com/events. Also think about informal ways of networking, for example social media, social gatherings, clubs and leisure groups.

  1. Make sure you do plenty of market research

Knowledge is the lifeblood of your business, especially in the start-up phase. Comprehensive research is vital. Know your market, know your customers and know your competitors – only then can you operate efficiently and minimise risks.

Remember, market research isn’t a one-off job; you need to constantly acquire knowledge, anticipate changes and adapt your business accordingly. If you stand still, you could risk being
left behind.

  1. Identify your unique selling point (USP)

You need to explain why customers should buy from you and no one else. Your existing or proposed customers’ behaviour, attitudes and opinions could be very different to your own, so ensure that you really know all about your customers. The more you know, the better you can design and develop your product or services to meet their needs.

  1. Identify what marketing strategy will be appropriate for your target client group

If you can’t attract customers you won’t have a business. Understand your customer profile. What are their habits? Where will they look for your product or service?

Only then can you begin to compile your marketing strategy. Take careful consideration of your product or service, the place and the price when choosing the most appropriate marketing tools for your business.

  1. Make sure your pricing covers holiday and sickness

Ensure that you will have enough profit to sustain you. Start by listing all of your outgoings, so you know your survival budget. Do this carefully – too many people overlook hidden payments and costs.

Make sure you build in a contingency, including an allowance for sickness and holiday, and factor this into your pricing from day one. If you’re intending to work five days a week, you might want to try pricing three days’ work to cover five days’ pay.

  1. Do a cash flow forecast

A cash flow forecast lets you predict how much money will be moving in and out of the business, and when. Remember that it’s normal to be initially in negative cash flow, also that many things in life take longer, and are more expensive, than you originally expect! Plan to cope with these eventualities.

  1. Set up a bookkeeping system

It may not be the most exciting part of starting a business but setting up an organised bookkeeping system will help keep things flowing smoothly once you’re up and running. Record details of all your business income and expenses, and retain all relevant documents such as receipts and invoices. You will also need to register for tax and submit a tax return, for which you need to keep your supporting records for six years.

Author: Rowena Maskell. Rowena is part of the team at Outset Online, a free online service offering business start-up support. If you would like support starting your own business you can access 12 months free online business support from Outset Online


Changing Career - Is the Construction Industry for Me?

Changing Career – Is the Construction Industry for Me?

It’s no secret that the construction industry is heavily male centric. In fact, there are only around 275,000 women in the entire industry and furthermore, 50,000 of those women work in an office environment.

As there are 2.5 million workers in the British construction industry, this means that women make up for only 12.2 per cent of that figure. Although it has risen from 10.7 per cent in 2010, the UK is still far behind Sweden’s 25 per cent and Germany’s 15 per cent.

But are women interested in joining the industry?

Although there not might be a great rush of female applicants for jobs in construction, according to a 2005 study by the Equal Opportunities Commission, 80 per cent of school girls stated that they would like to train in a non-traditional job. A further 12 per cent of that figure said that they would be interested in learning within the construction industry.

But why are so few women interested in a career within an industry that has proven so lucrative for men?

Katie Metclaf, a senior associate at Gardiner & Theobald, a construction company based in Leeds, said in The Guardian that:

“I don’t know why so few women are attracted to a career in construction but I think it’s partly due to a lack of awareness about the interesting and varied career opportunities, and partly due to the perception of the industry being male dominated and muddy. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Aside from that, there is also another crises facing the construction industry and it is that of an ageing workforce alongside an already present skills shortage, something highlighted in a report by the Chartered Institute of Building last year.

The University of Reading has also looked into the issue in a separate report, stating that:

“Career sexism is an important issue for government, industry, employers and individuals. Occupational segregation is damaging the UK’s competitiveness by contributing to the gender pay gap and preventing it from benefiting from the talents of a balanced workforce. The under-utilisation of human resources dependent on gender patterns is of economic and social concern especially for an economy with an ageing workforce.”


For an industry that needs to hire more than 200,000 workers by 2020, is construction appealing enough to young women?

Indeed, builder2the industry is taking note, despite there still being a 22.8 per cent pay gap between the sexes. Nicky Morgan, speaking at the ‘Chicks with Bricks’ reception at the House of Commons said in January that:

“the gap is too high and I’m determined to see it come down further and faster – because it’s not just women who are missing out.”

According to The Guardian, employers are also taking note, with companies such as Bovis Lend Lease searching to recruit more women within the workplace via mentoring schemes and other programmes.

Speaking to the Jewson Tool Shed, Cara Palmer of Wates Construction Group, upon being asked what the greatest challenges within the industry were, she said that over the past couple of years, the weak economy was the biggest challenge, where:

“young people struggled to get employment and further training was halted for those within employment.” She continued, saying that “[the] sector is definitely picking up, both in terms of winning more work as well as the requirement to employ more people to resource the work.”

Things are picking up for women

The Construction builder3Youth Trust (CYT) has already said that it is “time to think differently” and organisations such as Women and Manual Trades (WAMT) and Women in Building Services Engineering (WiBSE) are pushing for change.

Educationally, institutions such as The Leeds College of Building is also making a stand, training more than 900 women a year, even going on to employ female tutors for all subjects in order to attract more young women into the industry.

In essence, the construction industry hasn’t always been the best place to work for women, but there is change afoot, and it is happening sooner rather than later.

For more information, the Women in Construction, Arts and Technology LTD has a great resource for women searching for courses within construction, arts & crafts and technology.

Author: Jane Wilson is the content executive at the Jewson Tool Shed,who works to help inspire young people into picking up a trade within the construction industry.

Six tried and trusted ways to find your passion

Six tried and trusted ways to find your passion

Knowing what your purpose is in life, finding your talent or simply doing what you enjoy most. We have found some great ways to help you find your passion.