Well, the 1st half of the year has been busy at the Smart Enterprise! Amongst other things, we ran a 6 day Train the Trainer pilot course with the Westminster Society. The initiative, which was funded by the Skills for Care Workforce Development Innovation Fund, aimed to train people with learning disabilities who use services at the Westminster Society, so that they could be employed as in-house staff trainers on completion of the course.
Overall, it all went amazingly well, but there were a few key learning points that we’ll take into account next time.
The right people…
The Westminster Society were responsible for recruiting the trainees. They had an interview process, and were looking for key skills in the candidates: timekeeping, presentation, ability to listen, interest and motivation, and crucially commitment to attend the sessions. They recruited 8 people, but actually only 6 attended the course. And in fact, that worked out really well – I think if we’d had the full group, we would have struggled with timings, especially when it came to practising individual presentations.
Each trainee was supported by a ‘buddy’ – a member of Westminster Society staff, who knew the person well, and had some experience of or interest in training delivery. Getting the right person for this role was crucial – not only did they need to be committed to the course, but so did their managers! There were some issues with buddies being unable to attend because of other work commitments – whilst that’s understandable, it wasn’t overly helpful when it came to consistency for the trainee, especially if the replacement had just been roped in at the last minute and didn’t really know what was going on. In future, we will ask for a ‘back-up buddy’, who can work in partnership with the lead. They can be kept informed of progress, and pick up the reins if the lead buddy is unavailable for any reason.
Timing is everything!
Each day was planned to run from 10am to 3pm, with an hour for lunch. The 10am start was problematic for some trainees (and we did think about changing it to 11), but we stuck with it – and I’m really pleased that we did. We constantly reinforced the need for a prompt start and by the end of the course, everyone was on time! If the trainees are going to be in paid employment in the future, then they need to understand the importance of punctuality and reliability, and this was an important learning point for them.
I would however change the afternoon sessions in the future courses. As any trainer will know, concentration tends to lapse after lunch, and our trainees did struggle to maintain focus towards the end of the day. It would have been better to run each session from 10-12.30, but set more homework that the trainee could work on with their buddy at a time to suit them – that would also help with the time commitment for staff.
The good stuff!
What worked really well was allowing each trainee to develop their own training session, utilising their individual knowledge and skills – a crucial part of the course and and a key learning point for the trainees and their buddies. We didn’t want everyone delivering a standard session – to avoid tokenism, it needed to use their own ideas and be in their own words. So we had really varied final sessions – subjects ranged from ‘Safe use of a wheelchair, to ‘How to work with my mental health needs’, and all the final sessions were not only interesting, but would be of value to staff members. So much so, that the Westminster Society decided to use those short sessions as the basis for longer in-house training once the trainees are employed.
Following the course, the Westminster Society completed a full evaluation for Skills for Care, and we also provided a ‘Top 10 Tips’ leaflet, which should be available soon on the Skills for care ‘Learn from Others’ website – or you can download the leaflet here.
A fantastic project!
So, my lasting thoughts on the programme? Basically I loved it, and I hope the trainees did too! On a personal level, it was wonderful to get back to some frontline work with people with learning disabilities – although I obviously work with our team, it’s a long time since I’ve run sessions with a new group, and it was so much fun! The course materials that we developed worked well for the most part, and the content seemed to have the right balance of listening and practical elements. The final presentations were wonderful, and I genuinely couldn’t be prouder of the all the trainees and their buddies – I’m expecting great things from them all! And best of all, all 6 trainees are now employed as bank trainers by the Westminster Society – a wonderful outcome for everybody!
If you’re interested in finding out more about the programme, or want to run something similar in your organisation, please get in touch.