Norton, near Stowmarket
STEMPOINT East STEM Ambassador, Geraint Thomas is Director of Guided Innovation.
Through his consultancy business, Geraint helps organisations solve their problems through the use of cutting edge technology. Specialising in the health and social care sector, he supports companies such as care home operators and charities to improve their processes or refine their services.
Recent projects include the development of an app for an autism charity based in Bristol which streamlined and enhanced the way that staff logged working hours, accessed shift information and researched staff skills and availability. By transforming their processes from paper admin systems to digitised app content, they have saved the charity hundreds of thousands in expenditure and made HR processes far easier for staff.
Geraint has been a STEM ambassador for STEMPOINT East since 2016 having been inspired to get involved after realising the extent of the STEM skills shortage. He now regularly presents to both students and teachers at careers events, as well as providing one to one mentoring.
How it all started:
Geraint’s introduction to technology came in an unusual way and was thanks to a major lifestyle decision made by his father. When he was 7 years old, his father decided to stop smoking and saved all the money he would have spent on cigarettes. By the time they had enough money to buy a PC, he was completely smoke-free. Geraint was therefore one of the first people in his social circle to have a computer and was instantly hooked.
From that moment he had a passion for computing, and he studied it all the way to university level. For a time, Geraint took a different career path, working in the financial sector before returning to his passion for technology and social care. With his wife a social worker and his brother working with homeless people, he wanted to bring these areas of his life together, becoming a social care technology specialist.
He has worked with over 100 care organisations including BUPA and Scope, and just two weeks prior to the Covid lockdown, he set up a limited company with aspirations to grow.
Guided Innovation is set to grow with a strong focus on Geraint’s specialism of health and social care. It aims to help multiple businesses at once, with a goal to create solutions that help vulnerable people receiving care, but also those providing care.
The solutions Geraint and his team provide are a mix of ‘off the shelf’ products that are tailored to a need, or new innovations based on systems that can respond to a problem. A current example is a project for a charity that supports people who have sustained brain injuries. They have identified the risk faced when clients are in the kitchen using potentially dangerous items, and Geraint is working on developing a user-worn camera system which can enable them to contact a clinician who can see what they see and talk them through a task.
Geraint explains, “If I can make people’s lives easier, that’s the whole point and purpose of our business. Charities and healthcare companies work to support vulnerable people across a huge spectrum, but many are using out of date processes, or are unaware of solutions that could transform lives. Tech has the ability to open huge doors for us in this sector and that’s what I’m truly passionate about.”
Through his business, Geraint plans to further his support of the STEM ambassador scheme through his own involvement and that of his staff. He has recently employed a new project manager who has jumped at becoming a STEM ambassador and issoon to undertake her first presentation with young people, before committing to a goal of at least three sessions per year.
During Covid-19, Geraint’s ambassador work has rocketed and he has reached even more people through online presentations. Having originally worked in Suffolk, he now also provides virtual sessions to students in Essex, Norfolk, Kent and Cambridgeshire.
Geraint says: “I really enjoy presenting and try and bring the subject to life for people, showing them ‘cool’ things. What I want young people to realise is that an interest in technology doesn’t mean you’re a ‘geek’. I often challenge them to tell me what their aspiration is, what do they want to be? Every time there is a tech link or spin, no matter if you want to be a beautician or a plasterer. Tech is disrupting so many areas.”
The Need For Ambassadors:
Geraint’s passion for supporting STEM learning initiatives came from his realisation of the lack of progress made in addressing the national skills gap, reinforced by his frustration with the curriculum-based work he sees his children being set.
Geraint continues, “We’re really lucky to have the education system that we do, but I honestly believe the curriculum is based on a time we no longer live in. Many of the jobs we have today didn’t exist when the curriculum was written. This problem will only get worse because of the speed that technology adapts. If an A level course is 2 years and a degree 3 years, often what we are teaching is out of date by the time the course is finished. In effect, our education system isn’t future proof.
“We have to think of future problems and educate based on these, but in the meantime, ambassadors can be the solution to this issue by giving the real life experience and insight that education should be providing the framework for. It’s really important that teachers are part of this too, so I try and bring the tech world to life for them.
“I really want young people to pick up technology as a career choice. As someone that ‘does technology’ in an unusual sector, I hope I show people that it offers way more choice and flexibility then they may have imagined. It’s not all network and server management – you could fly a drone for a living, you could be developing the next global vaccine or creating a beauty product. The opportunities are endless.”