Careerfile: From helping the homeless to training for charity

Julie Colley manages learning and development for Avalon, a not-for-profit organisation based mainly in Yorkshire. She talks about the challenges of a job with a difference.

What does your job involve?

Basically managing a team of learning and development officers who deliver training in person-centred support, leadership and management, health and safety, and a variety of vocational qualifications.

How many courses/events do you organise?

We run about 300 courses every year. We also deliver training in NVQs in health and social care, the Registered Managers Award, and other vocational qualifications.

Which is the most challenging?

Induction is the most challenging as we run this modular course over 12 weeks for people with a mixture of skills and experience. The challenge is meeting all the standards and legal requirements, as well as putting over the Avalon philosophy and delivering an enjoyable learning experience.

How and why did you get into training?

My career began in social care working with homeless adults and families. I then began working for a charity supporting people with learning disabilities and worked my way up to managing a number of services. I was already an NVQ assessor when a secondment opportunity arose for a training officer, and the rest fell into place.

What’s the best or most memorable training event you’ve attended?

Probably a seminar on ‘ageing brains’. It was a huge room with hundreds of delegates, but I was captivated by how the subject was put across.

And the worst?

A health and safety course. The trainer was so boring – he just read out the handbook without looking at anyone. Half the group were asleep.

What’s key to putting on a successful course?

Think about the delegate’s point of view, so the environment and session length are crucial factors.

How do you measure the impact of training?

In several ways. We have, of course, formal evaluation methods, but I think it says a lot when you have a low turnover of staff, or those staff are really making a difference to our customers’ lives.

When you were a youngster what did you want to be?

I wanted to be a lollipop lady, due to the short hours.

What, in life generally, really annoys you?

I can’t stand rudeness or a lack of respect. I was brought up to respect people and their beliefs.

What was the first record you bought?

It was an album by Shakin’ Stevens, whom I adored until I was about 10. Then I ditched him for Genesis.

What book are you reading?

I am reading Daughters of Fire, by Barbara Erskine.

Who’s your hero?

Josephine Baker. She is best remembered for her dancing, yet she did so much for the good of people.

What’s the best piece of training/learning and development advice you’ve been given?

Don’t admit that you are nervous. If you show a weakness, people will pick up on it and it can all go horribly wrong. Be confident in what you are teaching, and don’t be afraid to come back to a question if you are unsure.

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