Inspirational Women – Petra Kennedy
Petra is an Employment & Training Manager at Merthyr Tydfil Institute for the Blind who are an established charity and has provided training, development and employment opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged people to gain and sustain employment since 1923.
Through collaborative working with 3SC, Petra managed the DWP Specialist Employability Contract (SES) for MTIB from 2015 to 2020 where the programme supported individuals who are blind or who have a visual impairment which was a great fit for their organisation. Petra has been a valuable ambassador for MTIB during the SES contract and has provided expert knowledge and advice that 3SC also shared with our other delivery organisations on the contract. Because of this, along with her drive and passion for her work, 3SC decided to choose Petra to interview for IWD, this is what she had to say:
What’s your current role or situation?
I am the Employment & Training Manager at MTIB and manage our Employment and Training contracts in Merthyr Tydfil and surrounding areas. My team of around 15 staff deliver our services to disabled and disadvantaged people with the aim of moving them closer to and into employment whilst developing their skills for employment. My role is more on the contract performance and strategic level these days and I work as part of our Senior Management team, attending board meetings as well as being responsible for representing the organisation at various forums such as BASE, WG Disabled People’s Employment Working Group and the Wales ATW forum. Over the years I have developed skills in bid writing and as part of our small management team my role has been instrumental in applying for and implementing new contracts whilst developing our services in the local community.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got to where you are?
I am a Swedish national who came over to Wales when I was 19 years old do a Business Degree at Swansea University. This was a huge challenge but also a great adventure and I haven’t looked back since – I don’t tend to do things by half and surprised my family with my decision to study abroad. Once I had completed my degree, I decided I wanted to stay in Wales, and I did some various admin jobs before deciding to do a Post Graduate Diploma to further my prospects. The course was called Entrepreneurial Practice and involved real life projects for local companies. As part of my course, I was selected to work on a project for MTIB where we compared support and services for disabled people in the UK and Sweden. At the end of my course and once the project was successfully completed, the management team at MTIB offered me an interview for a new post and I was subsequently offered a job under the ‘Go Wales’ scheme. This was in January 2002 and I have been here ever since! During my time at MTIB the organisation has transformed and changes include the move to new premises funded by a large European Project, developing our Employment & Training department and becoming an accredited training center whilst increasing our staff from around 40 to 70. Our success in delivering employability support across South Wales has seen us secure a range of new contracts during this time, including Work Choice, SES, Active Inclusion projects and ESP.
In my personal life I have also had time to get married and have a son who is now 12 years old and who along with our 2 dogs make our family complete. As a family we do volunteering with our dogs who are both therapy dogs and we visit schools, colleges, a local hospice as well as one off events at the Senedd and Waterstones. Unfortunately, our volunteering has been put on hold during the pandemic and we look forward to this resuming later in the year. I think my positive outlook and initiative has got me to where I am today, and I really love my job and where I am today. My managers at MTIB have always believed in me and I have learned a lot about myself with their help and support which has enabled me to develop as a person, employee and manager.
The Theme of this year’s IWD is ‘Choose to challenge’ – what challenges you and how do you deal with any challenges?
Change and new things challenge and motivate me. I guess moving abroad when I was 19 is a good example of this. I am not very good at sitting still and doing nothing and if I see that something needs doing, I will get stuck in. I try to see things from all different angles and I am conscious that I don’t have all the answers. This means that when I face a challenge I draw upon the skills of my team to find solutions as I know I can’t do it all on my own. In work it is a real team effort and everyone have their part to play.
Talking about challenges, what are some of the key lessons you have taken from the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown?
Lockdown and Covid has taught me to be happy with what I have and to treasure it. Simple things like baking, walking the dogs on the beach and sitting by the firepit in the evening, roasting marshmallows with the family really mean a lot. In work the Lockdown has changed so much of what we do but at the same time, our focus on people – both our staff and customers – has not changed, only the way we do it. Lockdown has brought many challenges but it has also proven how good our team is and that together we can overcome any challenges. We have focused on the wellbeing of our staff during this time and we keep reiterating that we need to look after ourselves and our team before we can help our customers. I always try to see the positive in people and I believe there is always a way around things, a way to overcome a challenge. Mental health has been a major challenge during the last year and I try to support others, from colleagues to family, friends and neighbours, all who have been impacted in different ways during the pandemic – we all need help at different stages of our lives and a kind word or helping hand can make a huge difference.
You’ve been nominated as inspirational. What are your top tips for work and life in general?
Stand for what you believe in and don’t be afraid to speak up. I am known for saying how I feel and what I think – if I don’t say it in words then my face says it for me! I also strive to give credit for work done by my team and to recognise everyone’s efforts. I think that this encourages people to share their ideas as they know they will be given the credit for it. I wouldn’t say that I am inspirational, but I hope that the work I do, along with my team, makes a difference.
Paul Johnson, Contract Performance Manager, 3SC