Top job: Janet Berkman, head of education and skills, Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF)

The Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) has appointed Janet Berkman as
its new head of education and skills policy. She has been charged with driving
the EEF’s commitment to tackling the skills shortfall facing the industry.
Berkman also wants to address the issue of parity of esteem for vocational
qualifications in the UK workplace. She has nearly 30 years’ experience in
training roles, working across a broad range of industries and joins the EEF
from Perkins Engines, where she was learning manager.

What will be the duties in your new role?

Representing and promoting the skills needs of the industry to the
Government, education, and anyone else who will listen.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

I would particularly like to make the ‘earn as you learn’ option of Modern
Apprenticeships for young people as acceptable as full-time education, to
dispel the myth of engineering as an ‘oily rag’ industry.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

Having to manhandle an inebriated manager back to his room in the middle of
the night, after he disturbed an entire hotel during a residential course.

How do you think the role of HR will change over the next five years?

I am hoping there will be a much higher regard for vocational qualifications
and closer co-operation between business and education. Hopefully, there will
be a much wider recognition of the need for everyone to continue learning
throughout their career.

What is your essential viewing?

Detective shows like CSI for entertainment, and programmes such as Back to
the Floor, because they remind me how much managers and leaders can learn, if
only they would listen.

What’s the best thing about HR?

Watching people grow – seeing the genuine surprise on someone’s face when
they have achieved something they didn’t realise they were capable of, and
knowing that you have contributed to that achievement.

And the worst?

Watching people fail to achieve their potential. Sometimes all you have to
offer by way of mentoring and encouragement just doesn’t work.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

I am not a risk-taker by nature, but choosing between two excellent but very
different job offers on one occasion caused me some sleepless nights. However,
I did choose Rolls Royce, which has been a step in the journey to my new role
at the EEF.

Do you network?

After more than 30 years in business, I usually know someone who knows what
I need.

What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?

Try every opportunity to experience different aspects of the profession.
There is something for most people in HR, and the more you experience, the
sooner you will find the most satisfying area for you.

Who would play you in the film of your life and why?

Julie Walters – she can do down-to-earth with humour and intelligence very

Berkman’s CV

2003 Head of education and skills, EEF

2002 Learning manager, Perkins Engines

2000 People management programme manager, seconded to Society
of British Aerospace Companies

1998 Training and development manager, Rolls Royce Diesel

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