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Did you have a career before going into qualification development? How did you get into the awarding sector?

After graduating in Applied Biology at Bath University, I did research for a few years which I found frustrating – every question answered created several more! I went to work in quality control in food manufacturing – much more satisfying. A major part of my job was problem solving, which I loved.

The family relocated when my husband changed jobs. I saw a part time job teaching food technology at Stockport College. After another move - to Cheshire this time - I stayed in further education but taught a wide range of biology related subjects in vocational programmes from level 2 to 4: physiology, microbiology, key skills. I subsequently managed the implementation of key skills across the college, especially in apprenticeship frameworks.

One of the managers who had left asked me to do some qualification development work for a small awarding organisation. Then a qualification development manager job came up and he suggested I apply. I had been working at Stockport College for 14 years from 1989 to 2003 by then so I thought a change would be good.

What side of your character does your current role as Qualification Development Manager appeal to?

Working in the food industry and further education gave me a passion and dedication for vocational qualifications. I want to help prove that they’re equal to, if not better than, academic qualifications. I love helping learners who have had poor school experiences gain confidence, get a job they want or apply for tertiary education.

If you could go back to college/university, what subject(s) would you take?

I’d take something completely different. Geography, perhaps.

You were with TQUK from the beginning. Take us back to that time. How were you approached to do the job?

I had taken redundancy from another awarding organisation and was working freelance for several others. A friend in the industry told me that a new awarding organisation was starting up in the area and was looking for a Qualification Development Manager. Andy got in touch. Our first meeting was very positive - I instantly decided he was someone I could work with. And here we are!

What were the first qualifications you started developing? What stood out?

The work was very similar to work I’d done in the past – this was in the days when units and structures for qualifications were more or less shared across awarding organisations, so there was a lot of overlap. The first qualifications were First Aid and Education & Training. I was nervous – there were lots of established awarding organisations. Would centres be willing to move to a new one? Turns out there were. Lots of them!

What made you want to study zoology?

I did Biology because I was fascinated by animals and plants, especially how they work. The research I did was classed as zoology and was about how particular species adapt to fresh and seawater.

Looking back at your time at TQUK, what would you say is your proudest moment?

It has to be getting Ofqual approval.

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What’s one thing you’d change about the way the UK regulates qualifications?

Having different processes for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Employers, learners and centres move across boundaries.

When you’re creating qualifications, you must have to learn quite a bit about the field the qualification is being developed for. Where do you start?

Looking at what’s available already – regulated and non-regulated provision and what it might look like, the target market, etc. Also, I have a general look at the sector if it’s not a familiar area.

How do you know when a qualification has run its course? What do you do when it has?

Sometimes a qualification meets a particular need and then demand drops off. Or, there is demand for an updated/different version. Sometimes demand drops because of changes in funding. We regularly monitor certifications and identify qualifications for withdrawal. We then seek the views of centres approved to deliver them before proceeding.

What’s one qualification you think TQUK should develop?

We have such a wide range now that that’s a difficult question to answer! Perhaps something on the advantages and perils of social media and the internet generally – how to benefit from new technologies without endangering personal safety and privacy.

What sectors do you see being more of a target for qualification development in the near future?

Most likely IT related areas and digital media.

Favourite holiday spot?

Egypt, especially Luxor.

Thanks for your time!

My pleasure.