Susan Popoola

Leveraging The Value of People

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

September 3rd, 2013 by SusanPopoola


My challenge to you is simple – dare to dream…. 

If you follow that dream, who knows where you will end. 

Sir Robin Know-Johnston



 As the football world raced around trying to cut deals on the last day of the football transfer window, 12 yachts ‘quietly’ set of from Portsmouth on an 11 months race around the world.  I’m talking about the Clipper Race started about 20 years ago by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston who was the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1969.

I’m not about to have a go at football – I do love the beautiful  game!  It is, however ironic that each 70 foot yacht has around 22-24 members of crew; a number almost equivalent to the number of football players on a football field.

According to Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, when he first had the idea of organising a non-professional around the world yacht race 20 years ago, he couldn’t possibly have imagined just how big the event would become.  Or indeed how many lives it would change and how many opportunities it would present to those brave enough to rise to the challenge.

Sir Robin goes on to explain…

The Clipper Race has changed immeasurably but its core values remain.  It is still a truly unique yacht race, open to anyone no matter how experienced or inexperienced, no matter how old, mo matter what background.  The beauty of the ocean is that it doesn’t care if you are a seasoned ocean racer or a nurse on your first crossing; it still serves up the challenges at the same intensity.  People take on the Clipper Race because they have a desire that sets them apart.  They want to live life to the full.

The easy choices in life often offer no pleasure; it is the hard and difficult challenges that bring the satisfaction or real achievement.  I remember my first circumnavigation, the challenges faced in 1968 to raise the money I needed to get my campaign up and running.  The sacrifices I had to make, that my family had to make.  My dream was always to make the globe’s oceans more accessible and to give people the opportunity to do what I had done, with far less of a sacrifice but with the same weather – gales, the Doldrums, trade winds, freezing cold and blistering heat.  You will be tested, pushed, challenged and ultimately inspired.

Against this backdrop I guess it’s no surprise that when I had the opportunity to speak to Sir Knox-Johnston he told me that the most important things for young people to learn are literacy, numeracy and character.

In many ways literacy and numeracy are obvious – they form the bedrock for all other subjects in school; together with the great ability to interact with the world. Character however provides the how of how we interact. The Clipper Race crew members live in very close proximity to people that were literally strangers to them before the trip commenced; navigating the oceans at times with nothing in sight but the sea and the sky will go a long, long way to further develop their characters whether they are 18 or 60.  However, what about the rest of us?

I think the way in which we interact with directly interact with others over the course of our lifetimes will take us a long way.  Critically also is what we read, learn from others and the places that we travel to.

With this in mind, I’m working on a website with the help of Milton Keynes College to enable young people (between the ages of 16 and 25) from across the world to tell stories about themselves that other young people can read. and learn from. Its early days yet, however who do you know who might like to contribute or would just find it interesting to have a read from time to time.




Clipper Race –

BeingMe –


Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated


March 16th, 2013 by SusanPopoola

Wanting to Listen, but ……

I was at an All Party Parliament Group meeting on Youth Affairs recently.  It was a forum focused around giving the young people the opportunity to ask questions, express their concerns and their general point of view. I found it rather fascinating that the one and a half hour event started with brief comments from a lady from a Youth body who mentioned what the type of questions, comments would be useful to her.  The facilitate went on to speak.  About half an hour later an MP from the opposition came in and spoke a bit and then took questions.

The MP for Children and Families then came in for the last hour. He settled down was briefly introduced then spoken for about 15 minutes or more.  He seemed like a very nice man and  sincere man who kept saying that he wanted to listen to what he the young people had to say.  After he’s initially introduction, which must have lasted for more than 5 minutes, he went on to say that he would like to say a few things in anticipation of the questions that the young people would probably want to ask.  By the time he finished talking there were only about 10 minutes of the allocated half hour left which meant that very few of the young people had the opportunity to ask questions,

Bemusingly one of the young people pointed out that he didn’t understand most of what the Minister had said. Before long a bell went  of and refused to stop ringing signally the end of the event.  The young people were told to write down questions that they may have for the minister so that he could answer them at a later date.

I left thinking that I wish he had really and truly listened since he said he wanted to hear what the young people had to say.


Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

July 18th, 2008 by SusanPopoola

A More Positive View of Our Youth

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend Countec Education and Business Partnership ‘s Investors in Education Awards at the Ramada Encore Hotel in Central Milton Keynes.

It was an event that celebrated employers that provide secondary school pupils with an opportunity to experience the work place and pupils that had been on a work placement and had a positive impact in the work place.

In the current climate where there is so much negative talk about young people, I was amazed at how many positive words and phrases employers had used to describe the young people that had been with them on work placements.

I found myself jotting some of them down as follows: Motivated; Enthusiastic; Consistent; Hard Working; Always Smiling; Grew in Confidence; Lovely Boy; Wanted to do Well; Steady & Reliable; ‘Can Do’ Attitude; a Delight; Upbeat; Polite; Perfect Attendance; Dealt with Issues …..
and the list goes on and on.

These employers are people who have had a direct experience of these young people, but somehow they see something different from the image of young people that is constantly portrayed in the media. I’m not denying the problems that do exist with young people, but I believe that the young people that were honoured at Wednesday’s event are more representative of the typical teenager than those portrayed in the media.

It makes me wonder what the typical young person trying to make the most of his/her life (who does not carry a weapon or belong to a gang) must think or feel about the image we are portraying of them.


Susan Popoola

Copyright 2008 This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

June 11th, 2008 by SusanPopoola

Developing Creativity through Art

I’ve just got back to the office from a visit to a local Secondary School where I am a School Governor. While there I had an interesting conversation with the Head of Art about using Art to develop creative skills for the workplace.

I’m glad that they are thinking along these lines because creative skills are a must for the 21st Century workplace. The war for talent is not just about employers fighting for employees with the required skills. It’s also about employees demonstrating that they have the skills required by employers.

Furthermore, both my direct experience and conversations that I have with employers clearly indicate that it’s actually the softer skills that really make the difference