Blog » How I Became An Entry Level Co-ordinator

How I Became An Entry Level Co-ordinator

5th February 2024

The Post: Entry Level Co-ordinator, Northern Ireland Water (NI Water)

The Post Holder: Clodagh Patterson

An interest in people development led Clodagh Patterson to a career with NI Water.

Give a brief outline of your career to date.

I have spent the last ten years in people development roles across England and Northern Ireland. My journey began in Newcastle Upon Tyne, where I took on a training role within a well known hospitality firm. This role took me to London where I spent time travelling across England developing people and management capability, before moving home to begin my career with NI Water in 2019. Since joining NI Water I have worked in a variety of roles within the learning and development (L&D) team, starting as an administrator before progressing to L&D Officer and in the last year, successfully securing the role of Entry Level Coordinator.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Economics. I had a really supportive teacher who made learning fun and interesting.

Did you go on to further/higher education, if so what did you study and where?

I studied Health & Social Care in Northern Regional College, attaining a BTEC National Diploma. I then went onto university to study Bsc Hons in Learning Disability Nursing. In my final year I worked part time in a training role where I fell in love with people development and decided to turn it into a career.

How did you get into your area of work?

All of my roles to date have led me to the world of learning and development as I love being able to develop people to be their best. Watching someone start out unsure and low in confidence to subsequently become an expert following training to develop their skills and capability, is very satisfying. So, when a role came up in the L&D team in NI Water, I jumped at the chance to apply.

The opportunities at NI Water are vast, and they are keen to invest in the development of their staff so I was able to complete my certification of professional development (CIPD) whilst working as an administrator. From the experience and training I gained there I was able to work my way up to L&D Officer.

The role of L&D Officer required me to lead on projects such as professional and management development to help all our employees reach their true potential, something which I’m extremely passionate about. This experience paved the way for me to succeed in my current role as Entry Level Coordinator, where I’m responsible for looking after all our Entry Level Academy recruits.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

I always knew I wanted to help people so supporting apprentices, higher level apprentices and graduates is a natural fit for me. My role is so rewarding and I feel very privileged to be in a job where I can help people realise their full potential, whether that be at the start of their career with us in our Entry Level Academy or later in their careers when they want to develop and progress by focusing on their own personal or professional development journey. 

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

For my most recent role as Entry Level Coordinator, I needed the following:

  • Three years L&D experience
  • HR Related qualification (CIPD)
  • People and project management experience

I feel very fortunate to work for an employer that has achieved its Silver Diversity Mark, which means they aim to make their employment opportunities accessible to all, for example by focusing on candidates experience, not just qualifications.

Are there alternative routes into the job?

Yes, we have lots of people within the team that have come from various different areas such as consultancy, project management and finance, so there are a few routes into the job but it helps to have your CIPD qualification or be working towards it if you want a career in Human Resources (HR).

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

The main personal skills needed to succeed in this role are empathy, flexibility and adaptability. It’s also important to be a good communicator, oh and project management skills are essential.

What does a typical day entail?

No two days are the same which is part of the reason I love it so much. A significant portion of my role is  providing employee support and welfare for our Entry Level academy intake. Our Entry Level academy has a mix of ages spanning from 16 to 49 which means the support we offer can vary, from the pastoral care of these individuals, to monitoring the progress of their training and professional qualifications.

Another key element of my role is the strategic development of the Entry Level Academy. It’s a very exciting time for us at the minute as we launched our 2024 entry level opportunities on January 22.  We have grown and diversified our academy over the last three years to 109 students (the size of a small primary school) across a range of exciting business areas. We really have something for everyone, with graduate, higher level apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities in everything from Science and Engineering to Energy and more.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

The best thing about my job is being able to play a small part in helping my colleagues progress  in throughout NI Water, whilst making a real difference to society – that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. I am particularly proud that we are a double-winning academy. To be externally recognised twice as the best apprenticeship programme in Northern Ireland means we have created something very special here and an academy our students can be proud to be part of.

We are a typically male dominated workforce so a challenge is attracting more females, especially into STEM positions – however we are getting there and continue to attract more females than ever before.

Why is what you do important?

My role is critical to helping NI Water ‘grow’ our own talent in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) related roles, improving the diversity of NI Water and attracting top talent to ensure NI Water remains fit for the future. It also helps to support our aim of creating equality of opportunity for all regardless of where you come from, for example, in the past we have removed the requirement for GCSE Maths and English qualifications as eligibility for some of our streams.

My work also provides important employment, training and development opportunities to large numbers of people every year. 

As the sole provider of water and wastewater services in NI, we’re critical to supporting a healthy population, flourishing natural environment and a growing economy  – I’m really proud to be playing a part of that.

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

A career in Human Resources is very rewarding and there are a variety of opportunities from culture and engagement, reward and recognition, recruitment and selection and L&D. My advice would be to put your hand up for new opportunities – you never know where they could take you.

If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?

I love what I do, but something appeals to me about being a yoga teacher in Bali!

What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

Say yes to all opportunities.

Describe your ideal day off.

Yoga in the morning followed by a nice brunch, then off on an adventure with my dog Max, finished with a roast dinner and pint of Guinness – perfect day.

And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?

Research. Research the company and then keep an eye out for any opportunities they have. Make sure the company you are applying for aligns with your values. Have a clear idea of the expectations you are looking for from the company such as interesting work,  flexible working & benefits. Do not rush your job search – applying for the right role is an important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

For details on the entry level opportunities available with Northern Ireland Water visit

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