“Vocational training has always been a keen interest of mine. How do you make sure people in the workplace have the skills that are really applicable to their roles? I’ve always kept that question in mind throughout the many years during which I delivered workplace training, initially in the field of security, and later in business studies, leadership and customer service.”
Sarah also draws on her experience an Organisational Development lead, looking at organisational change alongside the provision of company-wide learning and training. This role eventually led her to being appointed Assistant Director at a Local Government Authority. “It was an interesting time. We were doing a large-scale organisational restructure, led by a strategic-thinking, big picture Chief Exec who wanted to challenge how local government was run. He built a team around disruptive change and we unpicked the whole structure of how services were delivered. While it was a hugely valuable and enjoyable experience, I eventually missed the coaching side of my work.”
“The next stage of my career saw me start my own independent consulting business. I worked on a number of change projects as well as setting up some Returner Programmes – for both women and men, linking them into vocational training and the Apprenticeship Levy. It was about bringing people in with the right behaviours and reskilling them for a career change. We looked at particular areas where there were real skills shortages; trying to address some of the recruitment challenges by working with existing staff to prepare them for critical roles. Mentorship programmes and support for those returning from a career break can really help to build confidence and fulfil potential.”
Sarah relishes the opportunity at Corndel to have a direct impact on the careers and lives of her learners on the Level 5 Leadership and Management Diploma. She explains, “It’s surprisingly common for senior managers to have excelled in their roles and progressed through the ranks with no formal leadership training. By supporting my learners through one-to-one coaching, I get to know them very well. Just a couple of months into my role as a PDE, the pandemic hit. The structure of our programmes meant that we were immediately able to provide valuable, personalised support to each learner through what was to become a prolonged period of uncertainty and challenge. My learners, mostly in the financial services sector, valued the opportunity to have an external coach to bounce ideas off and share their experiences as managers.”
Speaking about Corndel’s approach to vocational training, Sarah explains, “As Corndel PDEs we have one very clear and simple expectation – to delight and progress our learners. Of course, as part of a regulated industry we have to be Ofsted compliant, but that is not our ultimate end goal. Corndel has turned vocational training on its head, with our programmes being wholly about developing people to help them in their careers. The key to that is that as coaches we have freedom to understand our learners’ individual needs and then tailor our support accordingly, to make sure the programme has a real impact on their performance and that of their organisation.”
The recent experience of one of Sarah’s learners demonstrates just how powerful that personalised approach can be. “A Level 5 learner of mine was a successful Senior Manager looking to progress to a Director-level role within his organisation. Together, we started to look at the expectations of his future role and what he could do to get there. I did a lot of work with him on his personal leadership style and how he could build on that to adopt traits of an authentic leader. We explored his personal values and sense of purpose in order to develop his own unique leadership style that would see him progress to the next stage of his career.
Authenticity breeds confidence and respect; and he took it all on board with amazing results. By the end of the programme he had completely changed the way he managed his team. He truly mastered the skill of delegation; the impact of which transformed his work-life balance. By learning to empower his team, he was able to go on holiday and switch off from work, knowing that his team were confident to make decisions in his absence. During lockdown he started a weekly update to keep members of his team connected. He doesn’t do it anymore – only because his team members came forward and asked if they could take it on. The Corndel programme, combined with the opportunity to talk things through with an experienced coach has made a huge difference to him and many other learners lucky enough to get the opportunity to join a Corndel programme.”