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21st October 2020

This week, we’re celebrating #CollegesWeek (Monday 19 - Friday 23 October) and we thought it would be nice for you to get to know our Senior Management Team and find out more about the work they do to make us a top performing, and Staffordshire’s leading, college!

Meet Karen Dobson, Principal & Chief Executive at NSCG...

“I want students and staff to be happy and successful at NSCG and it’s my job to make sure everyone keeps that focus. It’s a role that keeps me nice and busy and no two days are ever the same.

“I joined the old Newcastle-under-Lyme College (NULC) in 2002 as Director of Curriculum and instantly fell in love with the College and the people in it. Frances Wittering, who was the Principal of NULC when I joined, was a great role model and taught me the importance of ‘the detail’ and often reminded me that “If I don’t take notice of where the apostrophes are, then nobody else will.” Thinking of Frances saying that still makes me smile to this day.

“I was appointed as Principal & Chief Executive in 2004 and I’m lucky that I still work with a number of talented and hardworking staff today that were here when I first joined.

“I’ve always lived local, I was born and brought up in Stoke-on-Trent. I attended Moorland Road Junior School in Burslem, which no longer exists. My secondary school was called Stanfields Technical School, an all-boys school where you had to have passed your 11 plus to attend. My year was the first ‘comprehensive’ year to attend. We were a ‘mixed’ year and the years above us were boys…(I really enjoyed school). From there I went to the Elms Technical College which again, no longer exists.

“After a year at college, I started my first job, aged 17, working as a junior clerk in a bank. I instantly knew that it wasn’t for me and wasn’t the career I wanted to pursue. I started my Nurse Training at Leighton Hospital in Cheshire, aged 18, and after qualifying as a Registered Nurse I worked as a Staff Nurse in Accident & Emergency, Coronary Care and Orthopaedics before becoming a Ward Sister at the Orthopaedic Hospital in Hartshill. Some time later I moved out of the hospital setting and trained as a Health Visitor and practised for 3 years before moving into FE.

“For many years I studied as a part-time student alongside working full-time and completed a BSc Health Sciences at Coventry University and an MBA at Keele University.

“After 13 years working in the NHS, I decided to take a different path in my career and I got my first role in FE as a full-time lecturer teaching medical terminology to Medical Secretaries, Care Management to Residential and Nursing Home staff and various modules to full-time health and social care students. My first year in FE was tough, I never believed how hard teachers worked outside of the classroom and that experience has stayed with me. You could say my career in FE has progressed pretty well, and now I’m lucky enough to be the Principal of one of the top colleges in the country.

“It’s a cliché to say, but honestly, the reason I love my job so much is the people – my brilliant colleagues and our fantastic students. My favourite part of the role is watching our students achieve great things – I always enjoy hearing about and talking to our ‘Students’ of the Month’. I also love it when the whole college comes together, whether that be at our annual Remembrance Service, Christmas Carol Service or something else, we’re our own little community, supporting each other to achieve great things and ultimately, becoming an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ organisation.

“Thinking about my time with the team at NSCG and the 16 years as Principal, together we have done some truly remarkable things. For me personally though, two particular achievements stand out and that includes delivering a total ‘new build’ for Newcastle College which opened in 2010. At the time, it was the best new college building in the country and 10 years later, it still is one of the best and Newcastle campus students love it here, even with the yellow tape and hand sanitiser that is currently in every classroom and corridor!

“The second thing I am most proud of is the formation of NSCG and the merger between Newcastle College and Stafford College in November 2016. By bringing the two colleges together, we exploited economies of scale, shared best practice and built upon our collective strengths to deliver our vision, ‘to be the college of first choice, where staff and students are proud to work and study’. This resulted in NSCG being the most successful merger in the sector.

“If I’m allowed a third achievement, receiving an OBE in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List was an unbelievable surprise and something I still cannot take in even today. Many people say it but it really is a shared honour between all of the College staff who go above and beyond every day.

“Outside of work, believe it or not I still find the time for hobbies. I have always enjoyed sport and my particular passion is playing competitive tennis. Over recent years, I’ve also become quite an obsessive gardener, however I’m not the best at labelling the seeds that I’ve planted, so I mainly just cross my fingers and see what comes up! And of course, when I’m not working, I spend as much time as I can with my family and my dog, Alice.”

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