High notes of AMRC boss Alison Bettac’s career

BUSINESS'Alison Bettac at the AMRC Knowledge Transfer building in Sheffield
BUSINESS'Alison Bettac at the AMRC Knowledge Transfer building in Sheffield
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She’s a self-confessed opportunist, a nosy-parker and a born blagger.

And Alison Bettac, director of training at South Yorkshire’s world-leading AMRC, is damned sure those are the character traits which have taken her to the top.

“I’d tell anybody who wants to get on in their career to develop them,” laughs the woman who went into manufacturing in her 20s after being bored in an early career in the law. “I did a law degree and a year of my articles but my workload was conveyancing. It was so monotonous,” she says.

She quit and took a job in quality control at a security equipment manufacturer in Eckington. “Every day was different,” says Alison, 48. “It suited my nosy and opportunistic nature. I volunteered for everything and got to wear quite a few hats - HR, health and safety, then training.”

Encouraging people to excel led her to become a workforce development advisor for the Training and Enterprise Council at Sheffield Tec. The next career jump took her into HR at the Chapeltown-based British Glass Manufacturers Confederation at a time when the industry was battling a worryingly high accident rate.

She recalls: “I was the only woman they had ever had in meetings and was seen as controversial. But they enthusiastically got on board when I introduced a health and safety charter which made life safer for glassworkers.”

On moving to aerospace components manufacturer Firth Rixson, she was so distressed at having to make 40 people redundant In her first week she handed her notice in. But she was persuaded to take it back, went on to set up an academy to bring in apprenticeships, upskill the workforce and become the firm’s European HR director.

She was made head of the AMRC, The University of Sheffield’s pioneering apprenticeship training centre providing the next generation of world-leading engineers, in 2012. Under her command, 260 young people are receiving quality tuition and experience - including her own son of 19.

The Tata Proving Factory apprentice gets no special treatment because mum is the boss. But he was perhaps the only AMRC student unphased when Alison recently took the mic at an apprentices’ fundraising gala dinner - and gave not only a speech, but a rousing version of the Bond theme song Live And Let Die. Long before her career in industry, Alison was the lead singer in a rock band!