Nigel Ross, training and development officer, Samaritans

Nigel Ross works on a very restricted budget, organising and delivering training for staff and volunteers at charity the Samaritans.

What are the challenges in your job?

As a charity, our funds are restricted so the main challenge is to find cost-effective solutions to deliver training to our 16,500 volunteers. They are spread over a wide geographical area across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

You are addressing e-learning provision: why?

E-learning is a relatively new initiative for the Samaritans, as it does not easily lend itself to the listening skills training that is such a significant part of our role. It is ideal for delivering training to the specialist roles within our branches and we are developing a training package for our trustees and specialist roles such as branch treasurers and marketing officers.

What’s your view on open source platform Moodle as a vehicle for e-learning?

I am very impressed with the tools and ease of use that Moodle offers. I would recommend readers make use of consultants, such as Ray Lawrence at HowToMoodle, to explain how to maximise Moodle’s features.

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

The Training Foundation’s Certificate in Blended Learning. It is an extremely informative and motivating course covering a wide range of learning concepts.

What’s key to putting on a successful course?

Be clear about what you want to achieve and pick the most appropriate method to deliver those aims. Make sure you cater for preferred learning styles and be realistic about how much delegates can realistically absorb in the time allowed.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I hope to be still with the Samaritans. I have moved around quite a lot in my career, and it is great to finally be working for an organisation that I am so passionate about. It has such a vital role in society but also offers so much to those who volunteer for it.

What, in life generally, really annoys you?

The way some people seem to live their lives bullying and belittling others, the unfairness and inequality that exists in society and animal cruelty.

What was the first record you bought?

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

What book are you currently reading?

Scarred by Sophie Andrews.

Who’s your hero?

The Samaritans’ founder Chad Varah. The emotional support lifeline that he put in place in 1953 was revolutionary for the times. He had no formal psychiatric training but he found that if a person in the depths of despair could be given the time to be listened to, in confidence, they could start to find a way through emotional distress.

What’s the best piece of training/L&D advice you’ve been given?

Don’t be over-dependent on PowerPoint. Use it as a backdrop to enhance your presentation, not a script to direct it.

How do you relax?

I really enjoy socialising. I am a people person and my ideal way to relax is a night out with a group of friends.


Nigel Ross is training and development officer at charity the Samaritans. He works in its central office in Ewell, Surrey, and also from home in Stoke-on-Trent.

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