Working as an office manager and principal’s executive assistant at the Energy Coast UTC has been a rewarding learning curve for Laura Devlin who has previously worked in mainstream schools.

The technical college in Lillyhall, Workington, prepares 14- to 19 year-olds for a career in industry.

Students work with the organisations that they hope to work for in the future such as Morgan Sindall, Iggesund Paper Board, the Royal Navy and Sellafield Ltd.

Energy Coast UTC was awarded Best Secondary School 2019 in the Golden Apple Awards on Friday. It also won the Best Industry Engagement Award for their work with Morgan Sindall and Highly Commended Best Community Initiative.

The technical college was also one of 38 English schools graded ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted between 2018/2019 and one of four to receive the mark after previously being rated ‘Requires Improvement.’

Job title: Office manager/Principal’s executive assistant

Employer: Energy Coast UTC

Age: 34

Where are you from? Carlisle

Where do you live now? Carlisle

Where do you work? Workington

How long have you done this job? Just over a year – I started in September 2018.

Take us through a typical day: There’s not really such a thing as a typical day in a school but I always arrive before 8am, as part of my job involves making sure any teaching staff absences are covered.

My role is effectively two jobs in one, and involves organising and supervising the school’s admin systems, communications and procedures and providing admin support to the Principal.

Today, for example, I’ve worked with the Principal on updating our prospectuses, finalised arrangements for the UTC’s attendance at the Golden Apple awards and booked accommodation for a colleague who’s attending a training course.

I also answered queries about a current vacancy we have and prepared papers for an upcoming meeting. I was also dealing with the usual day-to-day occurrences in a school.

What do you like most about the job? No two days are ever the same so it’s always interesting.

My role is really varied, and as we’re a small team at the UTC I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of school life. I enjoy working in the same environment as young people too.

What do you like least? School offices are busy places so it does sometimes take three or four attempts at starting a task before I finally finish it.

Also, the travel – it’s only 45 minutes each way but for someone who’s longest commute previously was seven minutes, it seems longer! I think it’s worth it, though.

Why did you want to do this job? I’d been in my role at Caldew School in Dalston for five years and was looking for a new challenge when I saw this role advertised – it seemed different enough to be a challenge while staying within the education sector, which I’ve worked in for over 10 years.

UTCs are different to the other secondary schools I’ve worked in, and it’s been a learning curve understanding the differences.

What jobs have you done previously? I was Admin Supervisor at Caldew School before joining the UTC, and held various admin roles at Trinity School in Carlisle before that.

My first full-time job was as a branch assistant at the Cumberland Building Society.

What qualifications or experience do you need? You definitely need strong organisational and communication skills, the ability to prioritise and work well under pressure and decent IT skills. Enjoying working with others helps too.

I have a degree in business studies, which I think has helped as it’s given me a good understanding of things like marketing and HR, which this role involves. In the future I would like to undertake a HR qualification too.

What is a typical salary for this job? Around £25,000 for this area.

Any advice for people wanting to get into your profession? Get as much experience as you can – admin jobs tend to be really popular so anything that makes you stand out is a bonus.

For school-based admin roles, keep up to date with relevant legislation such as data protection and safeguarding.