nijobfinder Activity Bar

advertise a job
Jonathan Gillespie

Jonathan Gillespie Summer Camp Manager

Be Inspired Series

Shauna Mullan

Skills Competitions Manager
Department of Employment and Learning

What is your job?

I work as Northern Ireland Skills Competitions manager within Sectoral Development Branch in the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL). I am responsible for the development and promotion of skills competitions in Northern Ireland, which feed into WorldSkills UK competitions.
These competitions take place every year in vocational skills categories ranging from bricklaying to floristry.

How did you get to where you are now?


I completed a law degree at Queen's University Belfast, after which I did the Premiere, graduate management development programme.

I then had a couple of temporary jobs including, believe it or not, spending some time in prison! Thankfully this wasn't as an inmate, but as a criminology researcher -- not many civil servants have that on their CV.

After that I joined the civil service nearly seven years ago through the graduate direct entry scheme.
I have worked in a few branches within DEL -- three years in Higher Education policy, followed by a year working in Essential Skills Branch.

After that I got promoted and transferred to my current job in Sectoral Development Branch.

What skills do you need for your own job?


Strong written and verbal communication skills are essential as I deal with such a range of people -- ministers from across the UK, CEOs of large organisations, representatives from the Sector Skills Councils and further education colleges, competition organisers and competitors, their employers, trainers and families, to name a few.

Excellent organisational skills are also important, and a good sense of humour always comes in handy -- sometimes if you didn't laugh, you'd cry.

What does a typical working day involve?

I never know what the day is going to bring when I go to my desk in the mornings, mainly because of the variety of work and the large number and sheer variety of people I deal with.

My day can involve supporting the DEL minister at a meeting with the other UK ministers, chairing a meeting of the Further Education Skills Champion network in Northern Ireland, meeting with competition organisers, attending competitions, and drafting speeches and answers to assembly questions.

As well as this, I work with my team and other colleagues within the department on related policy areas.

What is the best part of your job?

The variety of the work, and the opportunity to be involved with a policy area that showcases the skills of our local young people.

It is great to see the skills competitions in action and to watch the incredible talent of the young people who take part. And, of course, it is always very satisfying to see success that rewards our young people with a chance to compete on a global level.

Not only is this great for the competitor in becoming recognised as top of their field, it has a real positive impact on their employer, training organisation and of course, family.

And the worst aspects?

Trying to get everything done. As I'm out of the office a lot at meetings, it is a challenge to get caught up on work and respond to the large number of emails I receive on a daily basis. Travelling to London for meetings is tiring, but I try to use video conferencing as much as possible.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Beyond a doubt, being afforded the opportunity to travel to Calgary in 2009 to support the Northern Irish competitor Trevor Woods, a joiner from Co Fermanagh, in the WorldSkills competition. Trevor certainly did Northern Ireland proud as he picked up a bronze medal against very stiff competition. This also gave me the opportunity to see at first hand the sheer amount of organisation that goes into the skills 'Olympics'.

How do you relax outside work?

In the evenings, after a hard day at work, there's nothing I like better than curling up in front of the TV with a cup of tea and a big bar of chocolate -- and a bit of retail therapy never goes amiss.
At the weekends (as well as socialising with my family and friends) I like to try different things -- I recently tried surfing for the first time, and managed not to drown.


Part of the Independent News and Media group