Training triumphs15 May 2010 by Mike Jeffree
Training should be a career-long process, according to TTJ Career Development Award winner Sarah Broadley
¦ Sarah Broadley took the IWSc intermediate course at JT Stantons and continued management training at Malden Timber and Wickes.
¦ She joined Jewson after a 12-year career break and passed intermediate and advanced courses at its Timber Trading Academy.
¦ She is now Jewson’s chain of custody manager.
When Jewson’s Sarah Broadley was presented with her Career Development Award trophy at the TTJ Awards last September, it, of course, marked tremendous personal achievement. Winning the over-25 category of the Award was recognition of her performance on a whole range of training courses and programmes. The judging panel was also impressed with her sheer enthusiasm for developing her skills and knowledge throughout her career, including after taking time out to start a family.
“I’ve always had a weakness for training,” she said. “If you get the opportunity to learn, my view is you take it.”
But winning the Award was more than an individual success story for Sarah. It also reflected her employers’ commitment to training and underlined the value to timber companies of offering employees opportunities for continuing professional development, especially career-break returners.
Focused on learning
After leaving school at 18, Sarah admits she “more or less fell into the timber trade”, but from the outset she was clearly focused on learning as much as she could about the business.
“I started at JT Stanton, part of Mallinson Denny (MD), and was put on their management training programme,” she said. “That gave me solid grounding across various departments: mill, office and sales.”
An integral part of the Stantons training was also taking the Institute of Wood Science (IWSc) intermediate course. At the time there were few enough women in the trade and even fewer taking any form of training, but Sarah was clearly determined not to let that be an issue.
“It was a very male atmosphere, but this is what I wanted to do, so I got used to it,” she said.
Sarah’s commitment paid off. She continued to do well at Stantons, focused mainly on sheet materials purchasing, then moved via a series of promotions, continuing her management training as she went, to sister business Malden Timber in Aylesbury and Wickes’ HQ in London after it took over the MD group. However, she acknowledges that when she decided in 1992 to take a break to have children, there was no definite plan to return to work. Indeed, she was out of the business for 12 years.
“By then our children were at school and I really felt I needed to find out if I could pick up my career and revive the brain cells!” she said.
The upshot of her desire to do “more than keep house” was an application for the post of assistant to the sheet materials manager for Jewson.
“The big culture shock was the extent to which IT had impacted on the business,” she said. “Luckily the interviewer focused more on my knowledge of sheet materials than my lack of computer knowledge!”
An added attraction of the Jewson role was the enlightened attitude it and parent Saint-Gobain Building Distribution took to returners, giving them the same chance to train and progress as everyone else.
“They allowed me to build up to full time as the children got older,” she said. “Of course it was good for me, but I also think there’s a benefit for business in this approach. When people have had a family, priorities change. They’re more likely to commit long term and devote more time to developing their career.”
Sarah proved a prime example of the career-focused returner. In fact, it seems her appetite for training was greater than ever. She started, logically, with an Excel spreadsheet course then signed up for Jewson’s Timber Trading Academy, taking first its intermediate timber training programme followed by the advanced course. The latter leads to a BTEC-equivalent qualification and includes site visits to the course sponsor, timber treatment specialist Osmose. Alongside she has taken further business and management training.
Sarah acknowledges that some of the courses have pushed her outside her comfort zone. “But that’s a good thing,” she said. “It’s increased my confidence and my ability to comment on different areas.”
Another pay-off from Sarah’s training commitment was, of course, the TTJ Award and that in turn, she believes, had a further benefit.
“Winning has been another confidence booster and the trip to Sweden with the sponsor SCA, which was part of the prize, was a fantastic experience,” she said. “And something I hadn’t anticipated was the publicity. It really raised my profile within Jewson and Saint-Gobain and I’m positive that helped me get my new job as Jewson’s chain of custody manager last October.”
Sarah is now on a training drive for her new role, recently taking a TRADA chain of custody course and attending a workshop on the government’s Central Point of Expertise on Timber and a WWF seminar on forest certification.
Looking back on her career her recommendations to the timber industry are perhaps unsurprising. “Training should be offered to everyone at all stages of their career, it keeps you interested and that helps a business retain employees and develop,” she said. “If you just keep people doing a job they know backwards, the challenge goes and some will look elsewhere for new opportunities.”
And to anyone thinking of entering the TTJ Career Development Award? “I’d say unequivocally, go for it!”