Think HBR

Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith on the job
What’s your current role and title?
I am the Chief Executive Officer at HVTC (Hunter Valley Training Company) a not-for-profit organisation that connects trainees and apprentices with employment and training opportunities. I started in this role in February 2013, after a long career in the private and public sectors, including finance, HR, IT, strategic planning, communications and corporate services. I’ve also worked with boards of directors including as company secretary and in non-executive director roles in the education and regional planning sectors.
Throughout your working life, what job have you enjoyed most?
Over the years, I’ve had many great jobs including my role as mother and stepmother to four wonderful children.
I am, however, really enjoying my current role at HVTC. It is an absolute privilege to have the opportunity to lead an organisation that has connected more than 19,000 young people with the opportunity of employment and skills training over the past 33 years. My leadership role t HVTC is both personally and professionally rewarding.
In business or personally who or what do you find inspiring?
I am most inspired by passionate people - individuals who love what they do and are driven and dedicated to making things happen. I’m lucky to have had some amazing longterm mentors who’ve supported me through my professional career. I’m also inspired by all the young apprentices and trainees who are committed to gaining their qualifications and skills in their chosen fields. Our HVTC Facebook page is filled with the success stories and photos of these wonderful fresh-faced achievers. I find scrolling through the feed always offers an uplifting read.
What advice would you give someone following in your professional shoes?
Listen, learn and believe that you can make a difference, even in a small way, every day. Take the time to learn and understand how to communicate with young people.
As business owners and employers looking for talent in our workforce, we need to remember our young people essentially want skills and a rewarding career path just as we did – they just might approach it a bit differently.
When you’re not at work, where can we find you?
On a nice day you’d definitely find me at Merewether Beach either swimming, enjoying a beach walk or having a coffee catch-up with friends. I also really enjoy travelling (when I can) and I’ve been lucky enough to visit many great places around the world. Visiting different countries and communities around the globe is inspiring but I’m always happy to return home with a renewed appreciation of just how lucky we are to live in this beautiful region.
How would you like to see our region develop over the next decade?
I’d like to see our region continue to grow with further infrastructure improvements, creating a more vibrant, functional and revitalised CBD with expanded transport links providing more efficient connectivity. Our region has a wide range of enviable natural assets such as the harbour, the lake, our beautiful beaches and vineyards etc., As the second largest city in NSW, I would love to see Newcastle recognised and promoted as a diverse economic, cultural and sporting hub. I’d also like to think our young people will play a key role in planning, developing and creating the future vision for the Hunter Region and that they will enjoy careers and work opportunities in a wide range of fields.
Do you e-book or real book? And what are you reading at the moment?
I prefer to turn the pages of a real book, rather than read from a screen – I do enough of that for work! I’m currently reading Crucial Conversations (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler) to freshen up my persuasive skills to encourage businesses around the state to invest in training young people through apprenticeships and traineeships. This is crucial to skilling our region for the future. It’s also coming in handy while I’m trying to manage a teenage daughter who is currently doing her HSC! For a bit of lighter relief, I am also reading Breath by Tim Winton.