What did Lisa Pogson enjoy most at school?
The lunch-breaks. “Nattering with friends was much more interesting than lessons,” she admits.
She left Hinde House at 16 having scraped five GCSEs and didn’t have an ambitious idea in her head.
“I was more interested in how I was going to pay for the next Human League and Heaven 17 singles than a career,” she says.
Today, though, she is vice-president of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, on its working group promoting women in business and leadership, and is a director of a business with a turnover of £7 million.
Not bad for the girl the RE teacher said might make a good secretary one day.
“That’s what I was told in my careers interview, which lasted all of 20 minutes,” she recalls. “He was right in one respect - I was, and still am, an excellent organiser. But no-one at school gave me any direction or encouraged me to further my education – although, to be fair, I wasn’t interested anyway!
“If you get it wrong when you’re young, you can put it right,” says Lisa. “I’m the proof of that.”
Convinced she was done with learning, she joined a YTS training scheme which gave her typing skills and paid £25 a week, and was placed as an office assistant with Sheffield architect Phil Haslam.
His practice, Liani Design, was small but his skills attracted the celebrities of the day. “Marti Caine, Bobby Knutt and footballers were clients and I met them all. I thought I’d arrived,” she says.
“I had two amazing years there and that YTS course was just right for me.”
After a year in the offices of a structural engineer, she landed a job with a building firm and had worked her way up to office manager by 21. Her organisational skills came in handy; she helped co-ordinate a team of 75 on jobs.
But recession hit, the firm struggled and at 27 she was redundant. “It hit me that I had no career qualifications, just five measly exams to my name. I used my redundancy payout to fund a GNVQ in business administration at RCAT in Rotherham.”
Lisa landed a job with Sheffield Hallam University and the girl who had hated study had got the education bug: “For the next two years I spent two nights a week at RCAT doing an HNC in business and finance. Then I did a further year for an HND, plus 18 months to convert it into a masters degree.
“They say a love of learning can come to you later in life and that’s true for me.”
Lisa now gives talks to schools with the STEM Ambassador programme and various mentoring employer engagement schemes.
“I tell pupils it’s easier to study when you’re young, but if like me you have a low attention span, do the best you can for now. Stay on if you can if you can bear to and, if not, get on a training scheme like I did - the equivalent are the new apprenticeships.
“Work hard and people will see your potential.”
The resources director at Swallownest-based Airmaster, which designs, installs and maintain bespoke heating and cooling systems, employs apprentices herself.
“We have a girl who joined us at 18 after not enjoying A-levels. Now 22 she is a trainee accountant. Also, an apprentice who started at 16 is now 31 and our senior contracts manager,” says Lisa. “We saw their potential and supported them, which is exactly what happened to me.”