Mar 2016 / Learners

A South Wales mother’s determination to create a nursery that met her own child’s specific needs has spawned a major childcare business that now employs more than 150 people.

A the heart of the company’s growth has been Sue Shepherd Evans’ commitment to building the skills of her staff who deliver childcare through ten different nursery and out-of-school clubs across Cardiff and the Vale.

Former childminder Sue took over St. Aubin Nursery in Penarth back in 1990 simply because she couldn’t find a place that would cater properly for the needs of her own child. But such was her zeal for giving staff the highest level of training that the reputation of the enterprise grew, generating demand that drove steady expansion.

Today the business includes six nurseries and four out-of-school clubs which cater for hundreds of children from six weeks to 12 years old. And Sue continues to invest in giving her team top quality skills.

The company currently has more than 30 apprentices pursuing programmes from levels two up to five in Childcare Learning and Development with Wales’ leading training provider, ACT Training.

St Aubin is one of a growing number of employers taking up the Welsh Government’s challenge to invest in workforce skills as a key route to growth and profitability. Under its Age of Investment campaign, linked to its Skills Implementation Plan, Ministers are urging firms to view the skills of their staff as an essential asset in which they need to invest time and money in order to progress and succeed.

The most recent Employer Perspectives Survey showed that 67% of the 2,000 Welsh employers that responded had provided some training in the previous 12 months, with 42% providing external training and 55% offering internal training.

Sue Shepherd Evans explained that she has always wanted to maximise the contribution of her entire workforce, and developed individual training programmes to provide employees with a new and established skillset – above the standard for the sector – as well as making them feel valued in the workplace.

The company’s tailored approach aims to suit staff’s individual skill needs and has been a huge success resulting in high productivity, motivation and retention – with one employee remaining in the team for 22 years.

Most recently, members of the team were able to undertake an NVQ Level 2 and 3 in Childcare Learning and Development, as well as the Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Children’s Care. Additional training opportunities recently offered to the entire workforce include: child protection, education system training, behavioural management, sign language and food hygiene training courses. Sue has driven the company’s pro-active approach to training, identifying potential weaknesses and adapting training accordingly to combat these.

She said: “We want to ensure staff are fully trained, not only to grow and develop as individuals, but also so they can provide the best possible care to our children. We have worked hard to invest in the abilities of our team, helping each person to grow a wide range of skills. It has been worth every penny.

“Most senior staff started as talented nursery nurses who have developed into highly qualified managers through training and support. We continuously monitor people’s qualifications and skills and identify areas where we can help them improve and grow as professionals, ensuring they feel valued in the workplace. As a result, many of our staff members have remained with us for very long periods of time, and we know that this is down to the training and support that we provide.”

Among the team members to benefit from the firm’s commitment to training is Carly Murray, Deputy Manager in the firm’s Penarth Nursery, who has risen from nursery nurse to deputy manager as a result.

She said: “During my time at St Aubin Nurseries, I have been given the opportunity to develop both personally and professionally, which has seen me progress into a senior position. I also have time during working hours to explore training opportunities that I feel will help me progress in my profession, which has seen me gain a Childcare Learning and Development L 5 qualification while working in my role.”

Julie James, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology urged more employers to invest in the skills of their workforce: “Higher skill levels are essential to the future of competitiveness of Wales but, achieving the degree of upskilling required, means that more employers must be willing to invest their own resources in training and development.

“Welsh Government remains completely committed to supporting the development of skills across Welsh industry – particularly in the priority sectors – but, in order to make a real difference to our wealth creation capacity as a nation, more employers must play their part and increase their investment in their workers of all ages.”