A Day in the Life - Jane Horridge

Mon 14 Oct 2013

Not so many years ago the idea of a College of Further Education having a Director of Business Development would have been thought most odd.  Today, with business crying out for a workforce with specific skills it is a pivotal role.  

Jane Horridge is no stranger to the world of very big business.  Her CV includes globally-known names including Carlsberg and Volkswagen, but she says she is as happy as she has ever been building relationships with companies, large and small, on the College’s behalf.  “There’s a sense of doing something really worthwhile when you’re working in education,” she says.  “It’s not just about climbing the corporate ladder.  I’m surrounded by people who really care about what they’re doing which is basically giving young people a great start in life.”

Jane’s job involves showing businesses how the College can tailor training courses to their specific needs and she says she has been really encouraged by the enthusiasm company bosses have for working directly with education.  “It’s a double whammy for them.  Yes, they might be able to go to a private training provider for what they need but many of them are glad to know that by working with us they’re supporting local students and contributing to their local community.  Milton Keynes is a brilliant place to make connections.  It’s such a thoroughly networked place and because the city itself is relatively new people seem to be more open to new ways of doing things.”

Moving into education from the private sector has been an eye-opener.  “It’s hard to overstate the dedication of the teaching staff.  Until you see it at first hand you wouldn’t believe how much goes into lesson planning, marking, course design and they all do loads of research to make sure they’re bang up-to-date with the latest thinking in their subjects.  You also need a lot of patience which rules me out from the start!”

Working out precisely what a business needs is not always straightforward.  “Sometimes it’s easier to say what employers don’t want than what they do want,” she says.  “There’s a lot of emphasis on what tend to be called soft skills – understanding how to behave at work, talking to people effectively, the kinds of things it can be hard to pin down.  The great thing is that once you have worked out the training requirements, identified the right students and designed the right courses, you get a good fit and it is really satisfying.”

Jane is very keen to build relationships with businesses of all sizes and believes the College has something to offer companies of all scales and sectors.  “We have plans afoot to help new start-ups get off the ground and hopefully they will come to us for their training needs as they grow.  We already have some excellent business-focused courses like those run in conjunction with the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy.  They’re helping people see us as a business-friendly institution which listens to companies’ needs and works out ways to meet them.”

Jane says her ambition is that employers in the city will one day automatically think about the College first when they have any skill shortage or training need.   “I would love to get to the point where businesses see us as their outsourced training department capable of analysing what they need and delivering it.  It would be great if we could see the same people from the same companies coming here for their initial training, learning more when they reach supervisory level and back again for senior management courses.  This College belongs at the centre of a thriving business community and that’s precisely where we intend to put it.”

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