What does quality mean?

I’m thinking in the field of training.

Is accreditation important? To know a specific level of learning has been met and that an industry body endorses the training.

Is it. more important to do a course that is more well-known but unaccredited just giving a Certificate of Attendance?

Does it matter so long as some learning has been achieved?

Well, these were the questions I have grappled with over the years (more than 10!) that I have been a Mental Health First Aid Instructor with MHFAEngland.

You’ll see from my earlier posts ‘Learning together…..virtually’ and ‘The benefits of virtual learning’ I did something about it and re-trained.

It’s a great feeling to be able to deliver five new accredited courses for First Aider in Mental Health at three levels and the excellent Managing and Promoting Mental Health and WELLbeing & Understanding and Promoting Mental Health and WELLbeing.

It’s kind of seemed unreal until I received my certificates from FAA today!

Below is the kind of accredited certificate delegates receive so they know they’ve achieved a certain level of qualification regulated by Ofqual and SQA in Scotland.

I feel really proud to have done this training and succeeded in the challenges I set myself. No matter how much self-doubt you may have to make a change, the only thing to fear is fear itself.

I can hardly wait to start delivering these courses virtually!

Green gold or green despair?

I’ve always liked a smashed ripe Avocado with some chilli flakes and squeeze of fresh lime on some toast – not necessarily sourdough!

However, after watching a short feature on Al Jazeera TV I might need to re-think food choices in solidarity with the village residents of Chile!

We are lucky to take safe drinking water as a human right in most parts of the world. Turn on the tap and there it is. We don’t think about it.

In some countries, water is naturally a scare resource. People are brought up to not squander it so there is enough for everyone.

Water Aid and many other charities have done amazing work ensuring unique water wells linked to children’s playgrounds to make fresh, safe drinking water from a well available and accessible to all.

But what struck me about the feature on Al Jazeera was water is not seen as a human right in Chile! Just let that sink in for a moment.

Instead, following privatisation in the early 80’s water is seen as a commodity to be brought, sold and even left in wills. Added to this the fact shared by Reuters that Chile is the third biggest producer of Avacados which take 1,000 litres of water to grow just 1 kilo! The mind boggles. How many kilos do families get through worldwide a day?

The residents of local villages have very limited access to water putting at risk their mental and physical health as well as their children’s.

It’s well documented how essential it is to stay hydrated. In the UK 6-8 glasses of water are recommended to be consumed each day. Elsewhere on internet search it varies around 2 litres

An activist group – Modatima – is trying to change the law to make access to fresh drinking water a right for all not just the few in Chile. One of their lead activists, Rodrigo Mundaca, has received death threats and regular harassment from the authorities. Rodrigo has even come under the protection of Amnesty International.

It seems unbelievable that we consume food without thinking about the possible impact on those living in the country that produced it.

What can we do? Rethink the impact on others of the food we choose to eat maybe?

Learning together….virtually!

It’s strange how Coronavirus has managed to change my mind completely on virtual training. I know some remote locations globally have used virtual methods to deliver skills, training and education in all areas for many years.

Up until March this year when the Coronavirus curve ball hit us all, I didn’t feel I personally could deliver valuable training online. How wrong was I?

Having done nothing but virtual training over the last six months I see how much more inclusive and nurturing it is. It gives a much wider reach enabling people based throughout the UK and beyond to join from the comfort of their home sharing their knowledge and experiences.

I know see 90% of my business going forward will be on a virtual platform rather than classroom environment. So many more advantages to the virtual stage. All being there is good internet access of course!

At the start of the pandemic I made the decision to find an exact product to replace MHFAEngland’s three courses I’m licensed to deliver. Their half day awareness course, one day champion course and two day adult First Aider course. None of which are accredited.

I discovered http://www.nucotraining.com which recently added three accredited courses which match what I was looking for. Nuco has a solid reputation in the first aid, H&S and associated environments.

However, there was a few steps first! I had to apply and be screened against Nuco’s criteria. I also had to do a L3 formal Education and Training course with CTC before I could be accepted for Instructor training. I was a little deflated as I’m pretty impatient when it comes to me getting things done! CTC’s website showed the L3 qualification took unto a year. I really didn’t want to wait that long!!!

Thankfully with the curve ball of Coronavirus and home working, I managed to complete the L3 in under three months! Once I had this qualification I was able to get accepted by Nuco on their last virtual training session for Mental Health First Aid planned for 2020.

Everything fell into place beautifully!

Level 1 is a four hour workshop to raise awareness which a written paper at the end to prove knowledge and attain the Level 3 qualification.

Level 2 is six hours with a written paper and practical session to gain the

Level 3 qualifies someone to be the First Aider and is 12 hours long with 2 papers to complete and a practical session.

The beauty of virtual training is illustrated by people on the Instructor’s course with me. Based throughout the UK as well as Guernsey and in Afghanistan!

Martin, the Nuco Instructor, shared techniques and resources. Engaging, challenging and robust.

An exhausting but strangely energising experience.

Now I have a 5 accredited courses on mental health and wellbeing to add to my portfolio of workshops available for clients wishing to ensure the wellbeing of their staff.

Opportunity presents itself in the most unexpected ways.

The benefits of virtual learning

For the 10+ years I’ve been a MHFAEngland Instructor, I’ve been looking for a mental health and wellbeing programme to deliver which was accredited by a qualifying body delivering real value rather than the usual courses that just end with a Certificate of Attendance.

I stumbled across http://www.i-act.co.uk who devised mental health and well-being products specifically for the workplace. Both courses come with a 168 page manual, 50 self-help tools to use and 95 referral organisations for different mental health issues.

Having done the manager’s course – Managing and Promoting Positive Mental Health and WELLBeing – accredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists with CPD points – I knew this was a key product which would deliver real value to my clients.

I decided to apply for the Instructor’s accreditation to deliver both the manager course and the ‘Understanding and Promoting Positive Mental Health and WELLbeing in the Workplace’ for non-management employees.

At the start of this week myself and others from all corners of the UK, Bahrain and Hong Kong met online with one of the co-founders Pete – a Clinical Psychiatrist and mine of information – also our Instructor. After watching Pete deliver, we then had to deliver the whole programme in our own style with a couple of peers giving feedback.

Solid connections were made. Messages of encouragement flowed over WhatsApp as we all became accredited instructors.

I now intend adding these two excellent courses to my portfolio of training to employers looking to ensure their staff at all levels are maintaining optimum levels of wellbeing duding real value to their bottom line and brand reputation.

The opportunities that open up when you least expect them can lead to incredible places.

‘Success lies on the other side of fear’ – said Actor Will Smith

Personally, I totally agree with this thought and highlight the importance of ‘facing the fear’ in all of my wellbeing and mental health training.  Many people have said  something along the lines of ‘it’s not things in themselves that affects us but our reaction to these things’  for centuries – literally!  Epictetus a Greek slave  50-135AD said it, so did Shakespeare and many others.  It has stood the test of time.

 

For many the impact on Coronavirus has been negative especially where there are vulnerabilities already present.  For others they have seen the pandemic as an opportunity to reflect on where they are and do something completely different.

 

Check out the feature below from the BBC News website this morning.   Reflect on where you are.  Is now the time for you to do something different too?

 

Coronavirus: The women who started businesses in lockdown

 

Natalie James, Charlie Pears-Wallace, Mya Wander and Caroline Haegeman
Image captionNatalie James, Charlie Pears-Wallace, Mya Wander and Caroline Haegeman

The coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses hard, leading to sweeping numbers of redundancies and millions of workers being furloughed.

Despite the downturn, some people have decided to take the brave step of starting a business.

We spoke to four women about why they did it and how their ideas are progressing.

‘I started it on a whim but it’s become like my child’

Young entrepreneur Natalie JamesImage copyrightNATALIE JAMES
Image captionNatalie started a subscription service to bring people the beauty, makeup and self-care products they were missing during lockdown

Natalie James, 30, from Wanstead in East London works in fashion PR. Although she continued working through lockdown from home, she didn’t like the fact that she wasn’t able to pamper herself with her favourite beauty products as all the shops were shut.

Realising “a lot of other people felt the same”, she decided to start a £10-a-month subscription box service called Tingle, which offers a curated selection of beauty, makeup and skincare products sent to your door.

“I started to get cabin fever and hated that the only place I could go to was the supermarket,” Natalie adds about her decision to open a business.

She invested £300 in building her own website on Wix and designing the packaging for the box. She also approached beauty brands and managed to get most products gifted, while others were bought at cost price.

The companies that partner with Tingle get to include information about their brand in each box, along with discount coupons for further purchases.

Natalie says she has had 400 orders to date and made £5,000 in sales, but it has been hard work.

“I do literally everything – I’m staying up until 3am on some nights, but it’s worth it.”

‘I needed something to keep me going through lockdown’

Young entrepreneur Mya Leonie WanderImage copyrightMYA WANDER
Image captionMya started a Caribbean takeaway meal service during lockdown

Student Mya Leonie Wander, 20, had always fancied starting her own business and is a “big foodie”.

So in June she decided to start MJ Eats, a part-time Caribbean “soul food” takeaway service, cooking from home two or three days a week.

Mya, who advertises on Instagram, has so far had around 20 orders a week and made £500 in sales. She also says she broke even after just two months.

“I started my business because I needed something to keep me going through lockdown,” she tells the BBC.

She had been a competitive athlete most of her life, but not being able to do sport or find work “took its toll”.

Mya plans to continue running her business part-time and studying for her degree when the new academic year starts in October.

‘I finally had the time to commit to launching a business’

Young entrepreneur Caroline Haegeman and her partner JaiImage copyrightCAROLINE HAEGEMAN
Image captionCaroline Haegeman and her partner Jai pose with her “date night” subscription box product

Caroline Haegeman, 25, is studying for a PhD in oncology at Imperial College London.

Part of her work requires her to carry out experiments in the laboratory at university, but her course was put on hold for three months during lockdown and she had to stay at home.

Spending so much time indoors with her partner made her realise that even if they couldn’t go out, the couple needed to have “fun date nights” for the health of their relationship, but there weren’t many activities to do.

So she set up subscription box service Box42 “to bring back the romance”. Each one-off box retails for £33, or £29 for a monthly subscription, and comes with two fun activities following a theme, as well as snacks, non-alcoholic drinks, curated playlists and “mood setters” like candles.

“I started the company during lockdown because that’s when I started really seeing a gap in the market,” says Caroline, who partnered with independent food and drink companies and negotiated wholesale prices on the items.

“Previously, although I’d had different ideas, I’d never had enough time to commit to launching a business.”

Caroline has so far invested £1,100 in the business and her sales total £950. She hopes to break even soon.

‘It started as a necessity and then I decided it was brilliant’

Young entrepreneur Charlie Pears-WallaceImage copyrightCHARLIE PEARS-WALLACE
Image captionCharlie Pears-Wallace forged a new career for herself during lockdown

Charlie Pears-Wallace, 34, from Newcastle had come from a sales and marketing background and quit her job just before the coronavirus crisis.

She had hoped to change careers and get a new job that allowed her to use her French, but the pandemic made this very difficult.

But during lockdown she began helping small businesses with their social media strategies and marketing, thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations.

She now works as a marketing and PR consultant under the brand Charliecomms, and says she has brought in enough revenue to break even, pay her bills and put some money aside.

“I guess it started as a necessity and then I decided it was actually brilliant,” she says.

“I think if this year has taught me anything, it’s that you never know what might happen. But I like to think that I’ve safeguarded myself in a way, as I’m not a full-time wage to anyone.”

 

History repeating itself? Technology helping or crushing humans?

Watching a feature on a news channel this morning about the pros and cons of capitalism has left me wondering if we have learned anything from the Industrial Revolution to the financial markets crash of 2008.

 

I’m not sure I’m any clearer on an answer!

 

Hundreds of years ago machines started replacing humans’ physical labour.  Less people were employed which more was produced.  But workers laid off faced destitution with no money to feed, clothe themselves or provide shelter – remember this was before state unemployment benefits.

 

With the advancement of machines cracking codes in WW2, computers reducing in size from huge rooms to pocket size and robots being used in medical sciences we’ve seen many pluses to this technology.  But is it now going too far?

 

The online news feature showed Bob Pisani, On-Air Stock Editor for CNBC – American news channel who liaises with stock traders and explains the markets to the general population.  Bob passionately believes in capitalism without which he feels  there would be no financial support within the economy.  Markus Koch a Stock Market Correspondence stated traders have been reduced from thousands to hundreds in recent years as machines have taken over.  More thought provoking for me was Tarek Mashhour, Audi Plant Germany explaining their goal is to have a production network of communicating robots meaning increased productivity with the same resources.  But if less humans are working – who is buying the Audi cars?

 

Dirk Heitmann of IBM Germany explained they are developing cognitive machines capable of learning on their own!  Dirk feels this increases human creativity capabilities.  But could this be at the price of human jobs?

 

Anthony Scaramucci, Hedge Fund owner believes capitalism is the only system which works.  ‘There is tremendous opportunity for growth over the next fifty years.  We can mine for minerals essential in technology in asteroids in space’.  Now that idea might sound completely out there but we have computers that can talk with each other, robots used in manufacturing, healthcare and so on.  Is it really out of reach?

 

An interesting thought concluded the news feature by Professor Tim Jackson – Economist at University of Surrey who believes ‘we live on a finite planet therefore the expectation we can all grow and profit from capitalism is false – we can’t’.

 

We seem to get richer in technological advancements but the divide between rich and poor seems just as wide and just as unbalanced.

 

We watched with baited breath…..

 

Will it work?

Today sees the official launch of the Government’s Kick Start programme aimed at  unemployed 18-24 year olds.  The idea, as reported in the press this morning, is Government will pay employers £1,500 per head towards a 25 per week, six month work experience placement.  The Government’s idea is many will be kept on or step into permanent jobs elsewhere.  Referrals will be made by JobCentre Plus staff.  One of the first employers to sign-up is Tesco who want 1,000 people.

Check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53985144

 

Alarm bells are ringing for me.  I wonder if this has been thought through properly.  We have evidence from various previous work programmes including the recent Future Jobs Fund which doesn’t seem to have been learned from going by the press reports today.

 

My concerns are:

 

  1.     Will there be vetting of employers to ensure integrity that these unemployed young people won’t be scarred further by being used for six months in basic roles with nothing at the end?
  2.     Is a robust audit trail in place so all parties are accountable and progress/gaps in training are addressable?
  3.     What ‘work experience’ elements will be focussed on to ensure attractiveness to employers who do have jobs but don’t want to have to ‘re-train’ bad habits?
  4.     How can employers in good consciousness take part if they have furloughed/made their own staff redundant?
  5.     JobCentre Plus staff are on a huge recruitment drive themselves with thousands being recruited into Work Coach positions.  How will KickStart be managed to ensure any concerns raised are investigated quickly?

 

At Growing Talent, we know it’s successful even where there are multiple barriers to employment in place for unemployed individuals because:

 

  1.     There is a dedicated mentor for individuals, employers and sole contact with JobCentre Plus leads to monitor progress and address issues immediately
  2.     There is a robust audit trail to highlight progress/training gaps
  3.     It’s five weeks long including a week orientation and holistic whole person skills
  4.     There are robust employer and participant agreements in place
  5.     There is a permanent job ring-fenced for the individual at the start of the journey which is theirs on completion

 

I would personally be more reassured if this KickStart programme was targeting future industries – Artificial Intelligence, Coding, green energies or industries that usually look at degree education/experience such as financial services.  To ask someone to work for six months with no guaranteed job on completion with employers like Tesco fills me with concern.  What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden Figures – Acceptable?

It’s long been known and accepted within business that figures will be ‘fudged’ to give a more favourable report on their performance.

 

Take a look at Estate Agent’s house descriptions – often not the same in reality.

 

Today Times Radio reported on the results of their Freedom of Information request from all healthcare trusts in the UK and found there are over 15 million people waiting for their hospital NHS appointments having been referred by their GP for further investigations.  Times Radio went on to report the Government’s official figures of this waiting list is just over 3 million as their stats are not centralised.

 

It’s accepted tough decisions needed to be made during the pandemic but there seems to be no clarification on whether the 15 million is accumulative backlogs from prior to the pandemic or if this figure is due solely to the decisions made to protect the NHS during the pandemic.

 

Either way it seems unacceptable to ‘fudge’ figures when lives are at risk.

 

We’ve already seen countless people who have discovered their unknown cancer has now spread as they couldn’t be seen during the pandemic.  For every individual there is a family who will carry the lifelong scars of these tough decisions.

 

Whatever the real figure, we can’t change what’s happened but we can come up with a solution to address this backlog now.

 

Will there be action or blame shifting?

 

 

Are the quietest achievements the most powerful?

What an uplifting feature in the press over the weekend.  Relative Values featured the author of The War Horse – Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare talk about their life and work on their Farms for City Children which they set-up over 45 years ago.  The idea was to bring children who live in cities to their farm and experience life – where their food comes from, looking after animals etc.  Over 100,000 children have now spent a week at their farm experiencing a different life to take back to empower them with ideas of different paths they can take.

 

Magical for me was reading how Michael got the idea for War Horse.  A child called Billy was visiting their farm and had trouble speaking.  One night Michael saw Billy had crept out and was stroking one of the horses.  Even more powerful was Billy talking excitedly to the horse and the horse seeming to patiently listen.  A bond was struck up and an idea for War Horse was born.

 

The power of animals and people is long known.  The impact on health and wellbeing is hugely valuable.  I had no idea this author and his wife had changed so many lives over the past 45 years without awards and accolades.  They do it because it’s the right thing to do.

 

How wonderful is that?

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