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 Liz Hughes

Liz Hughes Head of ACCA Ireland

Be Inspired Series

Tommy Allen

Project Manager
Unite The Union


What does your job entail?

I currently deliver a Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) funded Workplace Learning project to the Northern Ireland building services engineering sector, which comprises electrical, plumbing, heating & ventilation and air conditioning companies. I do this on behalf of two organisations, SummitSkills -- the Sector Skills Council for the sector and Unite the Union, the UK's largest trade union.

The focus of the project is to offer employees the opportunity to brush up on their essential skills of literacy, numeracy and ICT. The training is provided free to the learner with accessibility, flexibility and contextualization all key to successful delivery in the workplace. Employers benefit too from a better skilled and more motivated workforce.

How did you get into this line of work?


I was previously employed in a large Belfast-based manufacturing company, responsible for the delivery of training and development -- a very challenging and demanding role. However, results were the key priority within the company and training and development often came a very poor second. This was such a demotivating factor that I decided to move on. Now job satisfaction is a prerequisite to me within any employment role.

So your background is in training?


I have always worked in a training and development background in various companies throughout Northern Ireland. I have previously been involved with SummitSkills in developing bespoke training outside the current Essential Skills project. Similarly I was involved with Unite the Union on development programmes focusing on their Union Learning Representative structure.

What qualifications do you have?

Within my current role, skills more than qualifications are the key to making things happen. Over the last few years, I have completed a range of personal development courses ranging from; CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) HR, learning and development, administration management, health and safety and project management.

Currently I am attending a project management course, delivered by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and am completing a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management (MSc HRM) at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown. I aim to achieve Chartered Manager (CMgr) status, the highest accolade for managers in the UK -- another lengthy process.

Did you always want to be a manager?


I have a passion for managing individuals, groups and situations and thrive on the challenges that arise from knowing that very few situations are the same.

What qualities are required for your role?

My job entails me going to visit companies on site to offer free funded training, but getting through the door is the most difficult hurdle.

The key skills required are communication, negotiating and face- to-face interaction.

I have to remain self-motivated and determined as rejection and disinterest can easily become demotivating.

Essential Skills training does not appeal to everyone during an economic downturn and I need to press home the fact that it is flexible, can be tailored to the needs of the company and will benefit the business.

What do you do day to day?

A typical day would involve meeting employers, either new or existing, to discuss their needs and project implementation.

I have to remain flexible in order to take into consideration employers' operational commitments when planning Essential Skills classes.

The planning phase involves additional meetings with the six regional further education colleges, which deliver Essential Skills.

When visiting new companies, I work in tandem with the trade training organisations, Electrical Training Trust (ETT) and Plumbing Mechanical Services Training (PMST). I also spend time attending SummitSkills and Unite the Union steering group and sub committee meetings in GB.

What makes your work interesting?

Without a doubt, the challenge of trying to make the project a success, overcoming obstacles and providing employees with the opportunity to re-educate and develop. My work allows me to be innovative and brings me into contact with a range of diverse organisations. One of the most rewarding outcomes of the project is that we can support and develop workers during the economic downturn when many are facing an uncertain future.

What do you do in your spare time?

At present study, study, study, although I also keep myself fit through running and attending the gym which I try to do every day.

I enjoy mountain walking, usually in the Mourne Mountains but occasionally in England and Scotland.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself?


I once cracked a bone in my ankle and the doctor told me I would be off work and could not walk on it for six weeks. The next day, along with a group from work, we left for a week's mountain walking in the Pyrenees. The point being that injuries will only stop you if you let them.

Who has inspired you most in your life?

It has to be my dad. He is the most self disciplined and determined man when he sets out to achieve any goal or objective -- a talent I strive to follow. Similarly my son continues to inspire me a greatly in life.

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