Working with our Clients

Strode gets Mobility Business Moving

When Shaun Dearlove wanted to get his mobility and disabled living aids business moving he thought of Strode College. His son Mathew had just left university and so was ideally placed to join the firm. However he hadn’t any business experience. Shaun wanted him to mind the shop while he was out seeing new clients.

He knew Strode offered business courses and so requested a prospectus. Mathew read through it and there were quite a few courses he was interested in. So after a chat on the phone Graham Knight, from the college, came in to explain what was on offer. Together they chose what was right for him. The conclusion was that he should do Business Management. It’s a course that allowed Mathew to understand how the family business works, as he was able to study aspects of business management that related to the family firm. That meant he was able to apply what he learnt to the job he was doing.

What did Mathew think of the course? ‘Wonderful you can get individual tutoring, one-to-one, fantastic’. Going through workbooks meant he could work at his own pace and at home. Assignments were handed in every two weeks when the tutor came round and they could go through any issues that might arise.

At the end was a test which Mathew passed with flying colours. Now he has an ASET in Business Management but what’s important is that he is now an asset to the business. For a local, friendly service call Mendip Mobility on 01458 448355.



From Cleaning to Caring

Qualified in Dementia Care.

Caroline Phillips started at the Frith Nursing Home in Burnham as a cleaner but soon wanted to become more involved in the life of the patients. Deputy Manager, Viki Mitchell, realised that Caroline had the right caring attitude to supervise activities for the dementia patients, so contacted Strode College with a view to organising training.

It was already management policy to upskill staff whenever they thought it suitable as they found training with Strode was very cost effective, especially if several staff were trained at once. Some private training schemes were almost ten times as much!

So how are costs kept down? Certainly not by lowering the standard of training but rather by employing distance learning, coupled with visiting tutors. For Caroline it meant she was able to progress at her own pace supported by her tutor and also the other staff taking the course.

‘Really impressed’ the manger said and Viki added that the Strode way was a’ more effective way of learning as staff don’t have to leave the workplace. A bonus for those who don’t drive’ Also ‘many adults feel threatened by a traditional learning environment and so prefer studying at home and work. The qualification is not only of practical value, it builds up confidence’.

It’s comments like this that go to explain why Strode started with 15 students in Minehead, it has now 300 on the programme this year alone, working with companies such as Somerset Care and many others. All of which keeps Strode’s Care Tutor Hazel Knight very busy.

As for Caroline, her NCFE qualification can also be put towards an NVQ which is a good thought for the future. More importantly she now understands why her charges behave in a certain way with dementia and so is able to provide worthwhile activities and care.

If you’d like to find out more information on a first class caring service please email or telephone 01823 448150.



Building Good Customer Relations

Now in her early twenties Kelly Newman began her working life with Britannia Building Society where she was promised cashiering roles which failed to materialise. Disenchanted she resigned and moved to a BT call centre where she was very successful. However she still did not feel that she had found her vocation and tried waitressing, children’s entertainment, and then a spell at a local hotel. However training and opportunity were limited and 12 months ago she moved to Chamberlain Brothers & Edwards, recently acquired by Paul Knight Estate Agency.

This is a traditional Estate Agency business in Shepton Mallet. Andrew Edwards is highly regarded, and very knowledgeable about the town; key qualities for those looking to move in from outside.

Andrew needed to take on additional highly trained staff . So when he realised Kelly’s potential he was happy to support her learning through Strode College. Kerry’s role involves significant client interaction, so together with Andrew she decided a Level 2 Customer Service course provided the skills she required and stretch of her abilities that she sought.

Her quest was the ability to provide an exemplary service and so increase both the number of clients and client retention. The course helped her reach her goal through defining the standards to be delivered and working through the different approaches to customer interaction. Interestingly Kelly has picked up on body language and appearance as important factors; the ability to read a client’s body language is a useful skill in forging a successful relationship. The flipside of which, Complaint Handling, was also a very useful skill to learn.



The Way to Better Service via Strode

Wendy Sugg worked on the Algarve for six years in the nineties and is therefore fluent in Portuguese which is essential for her work at the Lisboa Portuguese Café in Shepton Mallet. Previously she worked in yoga and massage therapies, based in a complimentary health centre providing a range of remedies for clients who included local dignitaries, a Princess and the BBC.

Subsequent work was administrative and procedural, especially at Glastonbury Festival where Wendy progressed to Chief Buyer.

Despite this experience and her qualifications Wendy hadn’t a Customer Service accreditation, so she chose to embark on a Level 2 Customer Service programme with Strode College, feeling this would help her future career prospects, and open future business opportunities.

The majority of work was done at home with meetings with the tutor at the café.

Already the course has paid off as the Lisboa Portuguese Café is an important community centre and Wendy has helped establish strong links with the Portuguese community and the local police. In fact the police have won an award for their groundbreaking work in this area and Wendy must be given praise for that.


Wendy says the customer mission statement on the course was very important for her in setting clear goals and standards with increased expectations. Furthermore she feels the emphasis on attitude has been key, feeling there is so much bad attitude to service in this country compared with her Portuguese experience. She feels that the course has given her a new direction and is now investigating setting up a nutritional clinic.



Red Berry Grows with Strode

Shepton Mallet is a growing town and as it grows, jobs need people and people need jobs. Which is why Helen Lacey set up Red Berry Recruitment in the spring of 2007. Helen is a highly qualified and experienced recruitment consultant who had previously worked for large agencies across the South West. She felt there was a need for a recruitment service with a personal touch that more closely matched employers’ and potential employee’s needs.

To achieve her business aims she knew she needed staff with the right attitude. Training could be done later and that’s where Strode College came in. Helen knew that given the right person Strode could make them, if not a superstar, certainly a little bit special. Cue Kara Bagley. Kara had tried everything from front of house in a hotel to behind the scenes on TV. She had even worked in an administrative role with a catering firm supplying high volume quality sandwiches to a national garage chain. But even that didn’t cut it as she felt her skills weren’t made use of.

Helen though realised her potential when she interviewed her and so arranged for her to have training with Strode. On the Level 2 Customer Service course, some key messages from Kara’s experience were reinforced and new messages and approaches explored. For example everyone says listen to your customers but can you hear what’s behind what they are saying? The importance of open two way communication was emphasized with the need for clients to feel comfortable and confident.

Reputation, the course emphasises, leads to repeat business and referrals. That’s certainly been the case with Red Berry. Now with fully trained people Red Berry is growing nicely. So if you need staff , a relationship with them will be worth cultivating. Call Helen on 01749 330630.



Look at My Crazy Shoes

The first time you take responsibility for staff it can be a daunting prospect but fear not, help is at hand! That is what Josh Morton found, when he gained a new, well deserved promotion to a supervisor at the Glastonbury shop ‘Look at My Crazy Shoes’. The shop, that brings the company’s website of the same name to life, sells Crocs and other fun footwear and is part of Street based Foot Shop Ltd. (best known for its Cosyfeet brand).

With support from Katie House, The HR Manager at Foot Shop, Josh had approached the College, with whom he had worked before, to do management training. “Distance learning” said Josh. “was the perfect way to train and yet still carry out my new role”. In this method the student learns principally by workbook study. So he or she can work their own speed and at convenient times. However there is support from a tutor who visits regularly at work. This personal approach makes for effective study.

Josh wanted to ensure that he moved “from being good at customer service to being a good leader” and The Supervisory Skills course provided him with a great first step on that ladder. He now plans to take a course in Business Finance to help with those all important budgets.



The Tale of Two Jackies

(or how the valuable benefits of NVQs can cost you nothing)

The development of personal skills in the workplace is a key government priority which attracts significant funding each year. This money can be used to help people moving to a new role or seeking to gain new skills in their current role. Illustrating this are the Train to Gain advertisements which have been on national television for much of this year.

The tale of the two Jackies represents a great example of lifelong learning.

Jackie Collishaw 2000th BDU student

Jackie Collishaw had significant retail experience and her outgoing nature meant she was also strong on customer service. However this spring she was appointed manager of the National Schoolwear Centre in Broad Street, Wells and wanted to learn more about how to tackle her new responsibilities.

The store is run by Sally Robertson who had met Graham Knight from the Business Development Unit at various networking and Chamber of Commerce events. She was delighted to learn from Graham that a very flexible and appropriate course was available via NVQ Retail Skills. She was even more delighted to find that the course could be provided free of charge under the Train to Gain initiative. “I was really pleased at the package on offer”, said Sally, “and because the courses are not linked to college terms Jackie could start immediately. The benefits will be huge, and it costs the business nothing! That has to be a good deal.”

In signing up for this course Jackie became the 2000th student at the Business Development Unit during its four year support of local businesses.



Caring for Your Staff, Caring About Your Budget

The residential and nursing care sector is one of the most regulated and therefore most demanding in terms of courses and training. Strode College though is very well placed to deliver courses to those standards; whether to one student in a small care home or to a group within a larger organisation. The tutors all have expert practical knowledge and experience of the sector. They appreciate that students have to work under pressure as they maintain a caring environment. This is where the flexibility that Strode offers really helps by offering the opportunity to study at work with regular visits from tutors.

Many carers study for the NVQ in Health and Social Care which is offered at level 2 and level 3. These courses can take up to 6 to 8 months and they provide a real qualification to prove competency in the workplace. However more and more homes are also looking now for instruction courses and here the range of courses we offer is growing.

Sheilagh Underwood, from Somerset Care in Somerton., was looking for help with Palliative Care to support her team’s development. She was pleased to find there was a wide choice of material for care homes, and was able to gain not only exactly the course she needed but also learn of others within the range for future staff programmes. She said “The availability of Medicine Administration, Infection Control, Safe Handling of Medicines and Dementia Awareness for example, keep our options open for the future. At only £60 they represent excellent value for money. Strode College has been very responsive to our particular needs.”

It’s just one example of how Strode can design courses around the needs of business. Using real, practical training your staff can obtain the qualifications they need to bring the improvements you want.



Your Website the Way You Want it

So reads the strapline for Somerset Web Services, a team of expert web designers, who are based in Taunton. Their aim is to provide a unique design for every website, together with full internet, computer, hosting and software services.

In charge of these web wizards is Nigel Finch. As a member of the Somerset Chamber of Commerce he markets his services primarily to companies in Somerset, and has recently created two new web sites for Bridgwater. The company has also won a prestigious award for a new site for Creech St Michael and the testimonials from clients show the high quality the company delivers.

Nigel recognised that his team was very high on technical expertise and strong on providing customer service. However he was conscious that, being in a fast moving industry, they needed to stay up to date with Management and Marketing skills and that’s where the College came in.

Many of the team took individual courses with the College, such as Sales Skills and Conflict Management. They studied at work and at their own pace. However for Time Management there was a Strode College course online with some very helpful tools and material. Nigel found the “College very supportive and professional in all it did for us. The partnership with Strode College will continue to flourish”.

Nigel can be reached on 01823 353760, or at As you would expect for a web company their own site is an excellent showcase for their talent and here you can also sign up for their regular newsletter.



Hairdressing Trainees get Ahead with Strode Apprenticeships

Employers who have taken on apprentices under the Strode College scheme have found that it is a very effective way to take on new staff who make a real contribution to their business. Past and present trainees of Strode College’s Bridgwater Salon and their employers talk about the benefits.

Kayleigh Roddie started as a Saturday girl in Visage and is now at H2O. She had heard about Strode College “through the other girls she worked with. They had gone on the course and found it really good”.

Karly West, who has just completed Level 2 NVQ in Hairdresssing, wanted salon experience so she is an apprentice at Central Hair Studios. She particularly likes the Strode Salon’s “happy, friendly environment”.

Also working at H2O, mature student Daniel Modely came from a career in retail. He found it wasn’t easy to live on the training allowance but at least it allowed him to acquire the skills and the qualification he needs for a good career. His tutor says he has the determination to do really well.

Vicky Baker started as a Saturday girl. Her boss Natasha Stevens was at Strode and recommended it to Vicky. Now Natasha works at a top London salon. It seems that Vicky may emulate their success, as she has already won the Strode College Hairdressing competition. She thinks that “it is easier to learn being at College and working”.

Tutor Sandra Hellier commented on the scheme: “It is this ‘best of both worlds’ approach, with in-house training from the employer as well as College teaching, that makes the Strode Apprenticeship scheme so successful. It gives the students a feel for the industry as well as real job opportunities.”

This has proved true for Mathew Wilkins who has finished his apprenticeship and is now at the Central Hair Studios. He thinks being an apprentice means you have more chance of getting a job. “It’s because you’re more respected as you’ve worked your way up.”

Margaret Moore who owns Central Hair Studios says she favours the apprenticeship scheme as “the trainees can communicate with customers better. They get used to a range of different customers and handling a broader spectrum of work.”

The fact that all these students either have jobs or are expected to be taken on when they qualify is proof that, in these difficult times, the Strode apprentice scheme is of real value to both trainees and employers.



Customer Service Success

We were delighted to report in the last newsletter that Jackie Collishaw had become our 2000th student, having just enrolled on a Customer Service course to support her new role at the National Schoolwear Centre in Wells.

Since that time Jackie has now completed her course and congratulations are due on some great work! Jackie has found her capabilities and responsibilities increasing and now plans to move on to study at the next level which brings in more of a management approach to her studies.

“It has been of great experience, says Jackie. The tutors are helpful and flexible, and the fact that they come to visit me at times that suit the business is of great benefit. Ironically we are busiest in the late afternoon when the youngsters are on their way home from school, so visits in the morning have been very appropriate. I have sent in work and assessments by email and then we have got together to discuss them, the feedback is always practical and helpful. And I have to say it has been fantastic that the College has funding available via Train to Gain to cover the costs!”

Sally Robertson the business owner is equally delighted, and pleased to see the progress Jackie has steadily made.

There is additional information about Train to Gain, and what it can do for your business, in the Stop Press to this newsletter.”



Somerset e-Business of the Year

Congratulations are due to Nigel Finch and Somerset Web Services. In October, their sister company, The National Pages, a powerful new business search engine developed by his rapidly growing web design company, was awarded “Somerset e-business of the year” by the Somerset Chamber of Commerce.

“Your website the way you want it” has long been their strapline, reflecting a strong ethic of customer service and building relationships by listening to their clients’ needs. The company has taken on three more staff since last summer as they have moved from strength to strength. Nigel Finch was quick to realise the need to develop the whole team with broad management, sales and marketing training as the team took on new responsibilities. “I always aim to recruit people with the right attitude, says Nigel, the important thing then is to teach the job with skills and knowledge transfer.”

The development of The National Pages stretched those skills to new levels with a product to rival all other business search engines to locate businesses by name or category. “The market interest has been phenomenal and I am so proud of the team here on the way they have responded”, continues Nigel. “However I must ensure we are ready for all eventualities, so our next training will include modules for the team including higher level Leadership and Management courses to really keep us up with the pace of growth. The College has been very supportive.”

Nigel also emphasises the need to stick to a set of principles, “We are a company with a conscience and will continue to be so, as reflected in our Corporate Social Responsibility policy.”

Both business websites can be visited at and