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Rob Hankin - Perfect Image - Preparing the Future Workforce

20 October 2020

Based in Newcastle, Perfect Image are an end-to-end IT solutions provider servicing companies from SMEs to large scale multi-national organisations. Rob is also a STEM ambassador and has dedicated much of his time to inspiring the next generation. 

Why we should care about women in STEM and the skills gap?  

Perfect Image currently has 90 staff and accessing and employing the right talent is critical to success. They strongly believe that what they sell to their customers is Perfect Image’s people, and the challenge is making sure that the right people with the right skills are in place to service their clients’ needs.  

The company fully recognises that the demand for STEM-skilled people is rising faster than availability in the UK and this is especially true in the digital sector. Many employers are therefore forced to recruit abroad in the absence of this talent base at home. Companies are faced with looking at new ways of driving efficiencies and innovation through technologies such as AI, machine learning and RPA (Robotics Process Automation). Previously companies that weren’t technical or STEM based didn’t focus on employing staff with technical skills as these were outsourced, however demand for these skills is rising in all sectors. In recent months the importance of skills and a skilled workforce has never been so relevant. All businesses need to drive revenue and often there is an urgency to fill revenue demands by getting rid of old stock etc. In terms of Perfect Image’s view the ideal scenario is one of planned demand generation, therefore our focus is not on short term sales but on educating the audience on how they can support the business longer term. We use examples of how we’ve engaged with others, the shared successes, and how that has led to great things. In this context getting involved in STEM provision and raising the STEM skills agenda and the skills of its future workforce is extremely important to the organisation. 

Why don’t businesses treat recruitment in the same way? 

The urgency is to have skilled people to meet demand which leads to increased costs on job postings, rather than if it was planned longer term. The payoff is a small candidate list with limited skills and inflated salary expectations. In IT particularly, the same pool of talent moves from competitor to competitor and each time the salary expectations increase. Large organisations such as Microsoft have really identified this as a problem and have turned to a strategy of nurturing a talent pool to ensure a cohort of individuals with the right qualifications. This approach ensures talent becomes affordable. 

Perfect Image is fully committed to moving towards this nurturing and growth of staff and therefore the business as a whole. By engaging with schools and colleges we can discuss this in a more meaningful way with young people, ensuring they are fully aware of the skills that are needed. Often careers conversations with young people focus on particular technology or the programme they may work on in a job but not about them as a person. Championing employees and their journey to act as inspirational role models for young people can become a blueprint for future career success. 

Rob Hankin stated: 

“I take pride in championing our employees. My greatest achievements are based around the successes of others. Knowing that I’ve played a role in development and mentoring of others and allowing them the freedom to take a leap and achieve something is rewarding. Not all ideas come from the top. Everyone in my office is better at their job that I am at their job so why would we not listen to them?”

Talking about their specific approach in this area Rob continued: 

“At Perfect Image there are a few things we’ve been doing to promote STEM to young people and they have started with Kate in the sales team. She has encouraged others to run and take part in coding sessions for local children. Being able to bring people with their families into our office gives them chance to get excited with technology. Simon, Head of Business Intelligence, has delivered sessions with local universities about careers in data analytics and he’s really passionate about his subject. Our Operations Director, Bob, held a hackathon event and even managed to rope in 14 members of staff to understand more about security within IT. This is being extended to local young people and businesses to help them with cyber security which is a real growing area of interest. Kate and Jess in marketing have put together employee spotlight materials to put on social media and really highlight the staff in the business.”

When it comes to female under-representation in his sector Rob is passionate about making a difference.  

“Women are still underrepresented in both Higher Education and the workplace in STEM subjects. As a father of four, I’m passionate about the careers and future happiness of my children. As a father of three daughters, I’m very passionate about making sure they have the entire job market open to them and don’t just see closed doors in traditionally male dominated areas. We need to put inspiration in front of young people and it can be difficult for young women to find inspiring stories in STEM that they can emulate without it being drowned out by praise for male success. This isn’t going to change unless we as business leaders champion the role that women play in our success.”

It is to this end that Perfect Image is engaging in a conscious effort to support girls and women into STEM and more specifically into this sector. 

“There is a whole cohort of post education workforce of women in which women aren’t afforded good opportunities to enter, or re-enter, STEM occupations. As an employer we offer retraining opportunities and flexible working to support those with young families. Larger employees such as Google are offering the chance to retrain in relevant digital areas. Looking at those who have lost their job during the pandemic, women have been disproportionately affected and training opportunities may help solve this problem.”

In relation to top tips for employers Rob offered the following key activities that have helped his company prosper and grow: 

  • Engage in existing initiatives such as North East Ambition and the STEM Ambassador Programme which support businesses to access and work with young people. These avenues already exists so make use of their links and support. Inspire young people to see what a career in your organisation looks like 
  • Inspire with success stories with people at the heart of the story 
  • Champion women in your organisation and the role they play in its success 
  • Engage in opportunities for women in STEM initiatives such as return to work to help address the immediate issue too  
  • Market your job roles not only on a job specification but culture of development, progression and inclusivity. 
  • Lead from the front with executive sponsorship and fully behind any programmes 
  • Make it fun! 

As Rob states: 

“This all adds up to us changing the way we think about our future workforce. Our talent pool gets bigger, our candidate lists get longer and our entire workforce is lifted with talent of each other.” 


Click here to watch the full talk https://youtu.be/RGYCvJnlVFU 


About North East Ambition
North East Ambition is an education and skills programme delivered by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership that supports all schools and colleges in the North East to achieve the Gatsby Good Career Guidance Benchmarks by 2024.
Working in partnership with education and industry, it aims to ensure each and every young person in the North East has access to quality careers education. www.northeastambition.co.uk

For more information about North East Ambition and how it can help your company, contact neambition@rtcnorth.co.uk or the STEM team at 01915164400


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