Sarah Mintey has had quite a year. From spending most the summer in and out of hospital, being honoured with an MBE and then getting Covid, she remains resolutely focused on Developing Experts for the future
My teaching career started in 1995 working at Flegg High School near Great bunch of colleagues many of whom have remained life-long friends. I remember the school and its communities with great warmth; they remain my happiest years in education. During my time at Flegg I raised several millions for an assortment of charitable causes. In 2006 I left the school to join Future Leaders and was one of 20 individuals out of 22,000 applicants who was fortunate enough to win a place on a headteacher training programme. I went then appointed deputy headteacher at Robert Clack School of Science in Dagenham before joining ARK Schools in London as a Small School Headteacher at Burlington Danes Academy. In 2009 I was appointed the CEO of the OPEN Youth Trust in Norwich where I was asked to lead the Department for Education MyPlace board to develop its online strategy for the national network of MyPlace centres before being appointed the Strategy Director for an Edtech start-up in London. I knew I wanted to set up a tech company so wanted to get under its skin more fully to fully understand the sector which eventually led to me setting up Developing Experts.
At the beginning of 2020 Developing Expert’s future looked exciting. The company had three large contracts about to start. In March the Developing Experts was awarded a contract by the National Skills Academy for Rail’s board and was tasked by Network Rail, HS2, Amey, Porterbrook, The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Volkervessels to create a platform for the industry to address its careers and skills needs. Developing Experts is proud to be the delivery partner with rail and now has many other similar opportunities in the pipeline. Although the company had two contracts delayed due to the pandemic its supply contract with the Chinese Government started in September.
Prior to lockdown I spent an average of three days a week attending meetings in London. Life was rushed, busy and a little like being on a treadmill. Lockdown has brought about several changes. I am grateful that my meetings have been moved online. This change feels like it will be a permanent change for the better. I have more quality time and love working from home. In May however, I started to feel poorly, I had gall stones which led to pancreatitis, so I spent a lot of time going in and out of hospital. I am delighted that the problem is now all sorted. I ended up losing a lot of weight and now have to maintain a low fat diet but life now couldn’t feel better.
I founded Developing Experts with the goal to fundamentally change education. At the moment, society operates in silos. Parents, teachers, training pathway providers, employers, and governments are all wanting to impact a child’s learning, but they do so in a manner that is disparate. Developing Experts provide a solution that enables a country to plan and coordinate its future in a way which joins up these silos, so all efforts are coordinated. Careers can no longer be left to chance. A child’s choice of career is too dependent on their circle of influence: their parents. Developing Experts want to support parents to see the sheer breadth of career choice particularly in STEM-related careers so their children can make informed choices about their future. Developing Experts no longer want career choice left to chance. The company’s ultimate goal is to partner with every STEM-related industry and classroom across the world to enable child and parents to see what is possible for their future.
The economy has been severely impacted by the pandemic resulting in many thousands of individuals losing their jobs but this does not change the need for Developing Experts solution. The life cycle of a nuclear power station from commissioning to decommissioning is 100 years. Based on the profile of other power station managers Hinkley Point C’s future manager is aged 7. We therefore know, based on the development cycle of Hinkley, what year the next power station manager is needed and what school year they are in. By pushing out the right messaging through our curriculum we can help to recruit Hinkley’s future power station manager.
In 2014 while researching the job market in my hometown of Great Yarmouth I was shocked to learn that for every hairdressing vacancy in Great Yarmouth there were 10 applicants, yet for every Level 2 engineering post, worth three times the starting salary, not a single local young person had the qualifications needed to access the opportunity. The Energy Sector needs to recruit 120,000 new green engineers by 2030 and 40 per cent of these new recruits need to be BAME or female. To reach this target, one in six candidates appointed from today onwards, needs to be female. Many companies from the energy sector struggle to attract a single female applicant.
Research shows children begin to eliminate their least-favoured career options between the ages of nine and 13. It also shows children begin to form stereotypes about occupations, including gendered roles, when they are six to eight years old and these stereotypes can influence their ideas about jobs, they might be able to do in the future (source: DfE 2019). So unless children start to learn about career options before the age of six years, industry’s talent pipeline is already being reduced.
Since founding Developing Experts, I have had a tenacious belief in the mission I created for the company. I believe that any individual is not the sum of themselves they are the sum of their network. It’s the team you travel the journey with and the network of support which is the most important. Throughout the journey, I have deliberately looked for partnerships which enable me to realise the company’s mission. One door opens another… I’ve met with the founders for brands such as Yahoo and Microsoft; I’ve presented to Ministers for Education in four separate countries; over the past two years alone I’ve travelled to 10 different countries but it’s not the accolades you gather or the awards you win, it’s the colleagues and friends you travel the journey with you. The accolades and awards are great to celebrate milestones along the way, but it’s not the reason you start a journey. None the less, they provide an opportunity to celebrate the team. I can only do what I do because I have an outstanding network of support behind me so for the team it’s great.
I am chuffed if not a little surprised to be awarded an MBE. I have worked 100 hours weeks throughout my life, most of my time has been invested into supporting and helping other people realise their hopes and dreams. I am proud of the shape Developing Experts is taking; it’s beginning to become the company I set out to create. It’s an accolade which the team deserves. I know with them the year ahead is exciting!
Having emerged from Lockdown 2.0, I am just relieved that my mum and I are well. In November, we tested positive for Covid. We didn’t have it bad and have now made a full recovery, but it did cause me to reflect back over the past year feeling relieved that I had made it through the year. In May I started to show the symptoms for gallstones which then developed into pancreatitis. I spent most of the summer in and out of the hospital. I was admitted for 10 days, my surgeon was concerned about major organ failure then finally at the beginning of September my gall bladder was removed, and I emerged well if not a little lighter from the weight loss.
We have an exciting year ahead as we partner with the Nuclear Strategy Steering Group to deliver its careers and skills strategy over the next 10 years. In September, the company was awarded an Innovate UK grant to develop an AI reporting dashboard that builds and tracks STEM’s future talent pipeline to improve the proportion of women and BAME engineers in the energy sector. It’s a subject which is dear to my heart as we showcase different industries so that young people can make informed choices about their future.