Interview with Catherine Thomasson, L&D Manager at Avante Care and Support

Catherine Thomasson, Learning & Development Manager with Avante Care and Support successfully completed the CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in L&D with Watson Martin Partnership.

Here we speak to her about her experiences of the programme…

What is your career experience?

Up until 2008 I worked for BT in various roles and locations in the South East. Part of my job involved managing several aspects of training. I took a career break to study for a degree and post grad and have been working in Learning & Development at Avante Care & Support, a health and social care provider since 2012.

What is your current position?

I am now a Learning & Development Manager for Avante, a not for profit organisation, delivering health and social care training across the South East. I was initially employed as a L&D coordinator but with a strategy change to ‘insource’ training came a promotion and I now have a small team of trainers. I run the training calendar and devise programmes working with Operations to upskill the workforce.

What challenges do you face in your job?

The biggest challenges are:

  • Balancing demand with the number of training days available in a month – everyone wants everything now!
  • Creating informed, effective courses whilst delivering a full programme to maintain local authority training percentages targets
  • Balancing operational need with training attendance and available funds to maximise return on investment
  • Increasing pressure on health and social care to deliver more for less
  • Maintaining team positivity in an underfunded sector that is currently in the media spotlight – trainers often find themselves in the ‘firing line’ from delegates which can be demoralising.

Why did you want to study the L&D certificate?

I wanted to ensure that the Learning & Development team was the best it could be and felt that by taking a CIPD qualification I would understand business best practice principles, to compare with our ways of working, making adjustments if required.

Why did you choose Watson Martin Partnership?

I was looking for a way to study that would give me flexibility and support that wasn’t solely reliant on home study. I liked that there was a programme of facilitated workshops as well as a personal adviser for each learner.

How did the qualification improve your work – what new skills and knowledge did you develop to support your role?

I learnt a lot on the course, some elements I knew and were in place but I hadn’t associated them with the business practice and process. The course helped clarify this and I learnt techniques that would make it easier and more effective, for example the PESTLE analysis and the theories behind business and adult learning.

How did you manage to juggle studying with your day to day work?  Has your employer been supportive?

My employer was very supportive and I attended the workshops during work time. I studied at home in the evenings and tried to set aside time to do this, although sometimes I wasn’t as good at this as I would have liked! There were a few late night deadline chasers but overall I didn’t find it too hard. My personal adviser was really motivational, so I found after a Skype with her I was energised and refocused.

What has been your experience of Watson Martin Partnership and the qualification programme?

I enjoyed the programme. The workshops were delivered by Joseph Grech, a model facilitator who exemplified all he was teaching, he kept us all engaged and was adept at supporting the mixed group. Dee Gemmell, who was my personal adviser, was outstanding. I found her a great source of information and inspiration.

How do you work with your adviser and what is your experience of her knowledge and the programme generally?

We scheduled Skype sessions and kept in touch by email. Dee was informative and friendly, she ‘knew her stuff’ which helped eliminate anxiety.  I knew that if I needed help I could contact her and she would guide me on to the right track. I consider myself lucky that she was my adviser.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about undertaking this qualification?

It is a good foundation for Learning & Development knowledge and is well supported by the recommended CIPD book.  There is a good balance of theory to practical business practice and day to day L&D functions.

What are your ultimate career aims?

In the short term, my aim is to get some more experience in the operational Learning & Development function and managing a team. Then look to specialising, perhaps supporting CIPD learners or those new to L&D.

Watson Martin Partnership now offers a new fast track CIPD Level 3 Foundation  Certificate in Learning and Development to help candidates get qualified by the end of the year.  Click here for further details about this and other qualification courses or contact us on: 020 7932 2760