Donna King

Training Academy Manager, Seaton Carew

Sector: Education and Training

As a young female entering a male dominated industry, Donna King says she had to demonstrate “resilience and work hard to gain the respect of peers”. However, this didn’t stop her becoming head-hunted for one of her roles and she never felt “over-awed working in a male dominated environment”.  

Where do you call home? 

Seaton Carew. I’ve always lived and worked in Hartlepool. 

Tell us about your role?  

I work as training academy manager for Seymour CEC Ltd. My role is to manage the day-to-day operations of the academy, including all 11 associate training delivery staff and all support staff, including administration and technical support. I am also responsible for strategic planning, marketing and budget management. 

How did you get to where you are today? 

My journey into construction started by accident as the apprenticeship I secured with the local authority placed me with the property services department. In this post, I completed a business administration apprenticeship under an accelerated programme. This saw me join Hartlepool Council’s construction training team after 18 months of a three-year apprenticeship programme. In 2005, I was head-hunted to Sillars (B&CE) Ltd as training coordinator, where I was instrumental in setting up a new training centre. 

As a young female, I never felt overawed working in a male dominated environment. Instead, I discovered that through hard work and determination, together with listening and trying to understand people and their challenges, I could succeed. 

In 2017, I joined Total Training in Hartlepool as centre manager, leading a team of male trainers and staff. Then in 2020, Seymour was recruiting for an inspiring manager to lead the commercial development of its pioneering skills academy and I applied. I feel that my successful record of accomplishment and high standing within the training sector was appreciated, and I was offered the role. 

My career start through an apprenticeship drives my nurturing personality to inspire and bring out the best in learners. I feel that I’m a live example of what can be achieved through hard work. 

What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way? 

As a young woman entering the construction education sector, I have had to overcome a number of challenges. By nature of working within a male dominated industry, with an ageing workforce, I have had to demonstrate resilience and work hard to gain the respect of peers. Early in my career, there was a number of times I felt I was overlooked and my opinion disregarded by older, male team members. However, I feel this has improved dramatically. Seymour CEC is progressive in its approach as a business to including women, generating a culture where all are equal and respected, regardless of any personal factor. 

As a mum with three young children, at times I have faced difficulties balancing a life working with family responsibilities. I recognise that the quality of time put into my working day is vital, managing my workload flexibly to effectively meet demands of industry and home life. 

When I took over the skills academy, the scheme was in its infancy and not progressing as it should have. I have overcome many challenges to make it the success it is today: recruiting a team of respected trainers that I’d managed to develop effective working relationships with over the course of my career in construction training, to develop a new team on site, identifying continuous cohorts of learners, building stakeholder partnerships and expanding the academy’s educational offering.  

A key recent challenge has been mitigating the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. The introduction of protocols to protect staff and learners ensured the academy remained operational through periods of national lockdown, critically supporting the construction industry and Seymour’s own workforce. 

Describe the moment you first got a feel for success? 

I felt really proud when I read a social media post that our marketing team recently shared. It gave perspective of what we have achieved for real people rather than just financial performance, which is what drives me to do what I do. This is showing how the work we do at the academy is helping people and giving them the opportunity to improve their lives and futures. 

In the last academic year, 71 per cent of our learners – 102 people – have gone into work following their training. As an example, three learners spent five weeks training with us, followed by six weeks at the academy supporting our training delivery before moving out onto site where I genuinely believe they will build amazing careers with our organisation. Seymour’s recognises its social responsibility to train and bring in the next generation of workers, and this was one of the main reasons the academy was developed. I love being part of it and the nurturer in me just wants to help as many people as we can.  

Do you have any advice to aspiring young females? 

  1. Work harder than your counterparts. 
  2. Be tenacious and don’t be afraid to be pushy. 
  3. Treat all people with respect, whether you feel they deserve it or not, or whether people have shown you it or not. You never know the challenges people have to face and deal with and you never know the impact that your actions can have on a person who may be struggling. 
  4. Be helpful to all levels, whether it’s your boss, your colleagues or people you manage, as this creates a culture where others follow and really effective team working in synergy becomes the norm. 
  5. Take time to listen to people’s concerns and opinions. I feel that you make better decisions when you have all the information instead of going off ill-formed. 
  6. Make sure you have the right work and home life balance as you will be more effective at work, but also enjoy the time at home better. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?  

Keep going, as things are going to get better. Some days are hard, but there is always tomorrow that is likely to be a better day. Everything has worked out and I’m really happy in my job role and work/home life balance and that is the most important priority for me. 

What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?  

Beth, Hannah, Lucy (my three daughters)

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