Real Lives

Making learning a Career Adventure

Gary Cloke

Gary Cloke is Head of Talent and Learning at Achieve together, one of the UK’s leading care providers, supporting adults with learning disabilities, autism & associated complex needs. Gary was a finalist in the Trainer category for the Learning Disability and Autism Awards 2022, thanks to his innovative approach to workforce development. Here Gary discusses innovating learning and development for all employees.

Since joining Achieve together 16 months ago, my goal has been to improve our learning and development offer, to ensure our employees, and by extension those we support, are getting the very best out of being part of the Achieve together family. In order to do this, I have focused on implementing three core projects which underpin all personal development work, alongside making positive changes around elements like induction and training.

First and foremost, I have been working to shift our learning proposition, so that learning is self-directed as opposed to just manager-directed. We introduced a blended approach to how training is delivered to frontline teams, who now learn through a variety of methods and are in control of their own development. Giving people this autonomy and level of freedom over their learning builds a more fulfilled and engaged workforce, who will seek out new opportunities and come up with innovative ideas.

One element of this is our Career Adventures initiative, which helps people to progress their career from whatever position they start in, ensuring we are nurturing great talent and enabling employees to level up their careers. We have put in place a competency-based framework linking to qualifications and pay, which sets out a clear path for career progression and recognises the commitment, dedication and passion of team members.

Its five-stage progression programme means that no matter what level someone joins at, there is a route for them to follow, and as part of the initiative there are e-learning modules, face-to-face training opportunities, webinars, educational resources as well as more formal apprenticeship programmes. Career Adventures has been positively received and has been rolled out across all our frontline teams, driving up competency across the organisation, which most importantly benefits the people we support.

Following on from Career Adventures is our Great Manager Academy, a three-tiered management programme. The Foundation Level develops senior support workers so they are ready for their first step into service management, and the Leading Level develops new and existing service managers into great managers who can lead their teams to success. The Inspiring Level enables managers to make the jump to being a regional manager, and means we are bringing people in to lead the organisation who have invaluable experience from working on the ground.

Managers take internal and external modules as part of the programme, and I have also transformed the learning data and insights that managers can access, allowing them to provide team members with all the training they require. Managers know their teams the best, and so increasing their level of involvement in their teams’ development is a positive step for all involved, alongside enhancing their own abilities in leading and upskilling.

Central to my strategy has been working closely with team members, as well as with the people Achieve together supports, and listening to their ideas to identify what could be introduced to continue to build on the strong foundations already in place. What has struck me most of all about becoming part of the social care sector is the remarkable people I have had the honour of working with, who are all absolutely focused on doing the right thing. I am looking forward to watching team members continue to flourish and grow in the weeks, months and years to come.


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