When I analyse training solutions I have developed, it is hugely satisfying knowing that the positive results of it can lead to improving someone's emotional health and supporting them through tough times."

Neil Barnett, Learning and Development Adviser at Samaritans

How did you get into a career in L&D?

I had been looking to leave my role in Further Education after getting frustrated with the demands and limitations of working in education. I started to look at similar career pathways that I could use my passion for helping people to learn new skills, which learning and development seemed to give me the opportunity to do, with a much improved work/life balance.

I undertook some learning and development qualifications and looked for a role where I felt I could make a difference to people’s lives within the Third Sector.

What are the key responsibilities in your role?

The role is incredibly varied and offers different challenges each day. I work on producing learning solutions for projects set by the Head of Learning and Development to help improve the service we provide to our users by Samaritans volunteers.

As part of the Samaritans L&D team, I work with external partnerships to provide digital learning solutions to support the emotional wellbeing of their employees.

When I am given a new project, I hold a scoping meeting with the subject matter expert, usually a project manager, then I perform focus groups with the audience who will be using my training and then start to develop learning solutions using the evidence I have gained.

Pilot groups are used to test and refine the training solutions before they are delivered by regional and Samaritans branch trainers.

On projects I can either develop some basic digital learning solutions and on other projects, where budgets are available, I procure digital eLearning solutions to provide our preferred blended learning approach to supporting Samaritans volunteers.

I provide training reports to branches, helping them to check that new volunteers have completed eLearning modules as part of their Samaritans Core Development training course.

I create new Samaritans volunteer ‘on-going training’ modules, in line with new developments and volunteers training needs, as well as to meet policy updates of the organisation.

I provide support for Samaritans volunteers who are finding operating and completing our eLearning training challenging through operation of a service desk.

Describe a typical day.

Attending scoping and project update meetings, replying to enquiries about training solutions, supporting branches with training enquiries and needs, resolving requests from volunteers and branches on our service desk and working on developing current training solution projects. When developing an eLearning solution for a project, I will focus on meeting project development deadlines with the external digital solution business.

What skills do you need for this role?

Strong in all forms of communication and positive negotiation skills are highly important.

You need to be organised, be able to prioritise your tasks to meet deadlines and be a supportive team player within the L&D department.

Be confident in your own ability to find the right solutions for your subject matter experts and try not to be precious about your project proposals, being accepting of other people’s ideas.

What challenges do you face in this role?

It has been a rewarding challenge learning new skills required to work effectively in a different industry and be able to develop different types of training to meet the needs of subject matter experts on the varied projects that I work across.

Using new business L&D techniques within my role, which I had limited knowledge of from my career in education, has challenged me.

Keeping up to date with training solutions that are engaging but also meet Samaritans volunteers needs and expectations has made me think about what best solutions to provide on many occasions.

Getting to grips with the complexities of Samaritans as an organisation has been one of the biggest challenges.

What keeps you motivated to go into work every day?

Reflecting on how my training solutions can help our volunteers to perform their roles better in Samaritans branches is a huge motivation for me.

When I analyse training solutions I have developed, it is hugely satisfying knowing that the positive results of it can lead to improving someone’s emotional health and supporting them through tough times.

The possibility that a training course I created might help a Samaritans service user come to a positive resolution, when they have been exploring suicidal thoughts, is incredibly rewarding.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in L&D?

Don’t just think about it, make the career move into L&D, as you won’t regret it!

Plan your route into L&D, research what type of role you want to work towards, undertake some qualifications that will help prepare you for the transition and then search for a role within an organisation that you think you can add value to as an L&D professional.

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