The £19million Cynnydd Project at Coleg Sir Gâr supports 11-to-24 year-olds who are at risk of not finding employment, education or training. Data Administrator, Elle Taylor, formed an important part of the project's Wellbeing Team and took responsibility for monitoring and tracking the student's progress.
She was the first one on her team to complete the mandatory NVQ Level 4 in Information, Advice & Guidance under the guidance of her TSW Training Advisor, Lindsay Sandall.
Elle loves learning, so her CV is a veritable Yellow Pages of professional qualifications. The IAG took her one step closer to her dream career. We caught up with her to see how the IAG Level 4 aided her work and how she was applying her newfound skills.
What do you do in your day-to-day job role?
I’m a Data and Administration Officer, but now I’m a Monitoring and Tracking Officer as well.
When I was completing the qualification, I was just a Data and Administration Officer so I wasn’t meeting with the students face to face - it was quite a rarity!
Now I’m supporting the students and it has given me the experience that I need to progress into a higher role.
My job is usually admin based - filing paperwork, auditing documents, paying staff on their timesheets, doing contracts, and completing paperwork.
But now a lot of it is supporting the staff. Whenever they need my assistance, or advice and guidance, I’m their go-to person.
For the monitoring and tracking side of it, I support the students with anything to do with study support, for example, if they are behind with their coursework or if their attendance is low. There is the mental health side of it as well. If students have any ongoing personal issues I can help with that to a certain extent.
Why did you take the information, advice and guidance qualification?
To be part of the Wellbeing Team for the Cynnydd Project, I needed the Information, Advice and Guidance qualification. Everybody who comes into the team will need to have the Information, Advice and Guidance qualification too.
How did you find the qualification?
I completed my qualification while on annual leave in the summer and I really enjoyed it. I like the way the course is - there are no exams and you can just do it on your own terms. The only thing I needed was for Lindsay to go through the units with me. Once I completed a unit and I was ready to move on, Lindsay was there at the other end of the computer ready to meet with me.
How relevant was the information, advice and guidance qualification to your role at Coleg Sir Gâr?
There were a lot of different units but it was the information and admin materials for use within the service that fit my role really well. There was also a unit on development that was relevant to me. I train staff and produce forms and databases, so I had evidence.
It was the perfect qualification for your role?
Yes, it definitely was. When you think of Advice and Guidance you imagine it's for the students within the college, but, actually, I'm giving advice and guidance to staff and my team members.
Do you see any improvements in your abilities and style of working?
Yes, I definitely do. I feel more confident. I’ve got a qualification to back up my abilities to give supportive information and guidance to people. I know what I’m talking about when I give them support.
Have the rest of your team completed the qualification too?
No. There is one other member of the team who I’m aware of that has nearly completed. She’s on her fourth unit so she messaged me yesterday asking for some help. But everybody else hasn’t really started or has started but nowhere near finished one unit yet.
Do you feel like you’re giving advice and guidance to the others on your team?
Definitely. They announced in a team meeting that: "If anybody needs any help to go and speak to Elle, she has completed it."
I’m the go-to person for the advice and guidance qualification! I’ve had meetings with other members of staff that needed help getting set up and help to understand what they need to do for the introductory element of the course.
They feel like I did the hard work for them. For example, I asked members of staff in the college about our health and safety, development, and different protocols and procedures. If someone asked me "is there a staff development policy?" The answer is no, but this was the document I was given to use for the qualification, so I can pass that on.
We’re all sharing resources now which is great.
Do you have any other qualifications?
I’ve got all my GCSE’s and I went to the sixth form. I also have a Level 4 in Leadership and Management and I’ve done a Level 2 in Intermediate Counselling Skills. I’ve also got a First Aid qualification in mental health. I also put myself on lots of different beauty courses so I could do part-time, casual employment for nails, waxing, hair extensions, you name it. It’s not just all the serious stuff like Leadership and Management, there is a fun side to me as well.
I’m studying for another level in Advanced Counselling and Psychotherapy external to work. I’m funding it myself and doing it alongside work.
I liked learning with TSW because I enjoyed the coursework and learning. For me, I was in the spirit of learning and thought "let's just carry on learning, I’ll carry on increasing my skills and my knowledge for things."
Does learning make you happy?
It does. It keeps me busy, and I like that when I’m at home on my own and I can just carry on and do it at my own pace. I have definitely got the bug for it now.
How was your relationship with your Training Advisor, Lindsay Sandall?
She’s absolutely amazing. She’s a credit to TSW, she really is. She’s like a breath of fresh air because she’s so supportive. I couldn’t have done it without her, she’s incredible. She helped me whenever I had a little blip, particularly towards the end when I was getting stuck. She was always there and no matter what time of the day it was, I could message her and say "Lindsay, I’m stuck. Help!" and she did. She was amazing. She was really supportive and she helped me through it. She was always championing me and it was giving me such a confidence boost.
She was amazing. The bond we had was lovely. I felt like she was my learning mum. Now I don’t see her as much, I miss her.
Apart from the confidence boost, what kind of support did she give you?
We would go through the units together and she would share her screen so that she had the PowerPoint for me to look at for the unit. We would talk through it, and we’d go through everything that was on the PowerPoint together. My job role is a bit different; I don’t work directly with the students, so it was more difficult for me to be able to angle the coursework in the way that it needed to be done. She found ways within my job that we could utilise to make the qualification fit. We would discuss things and we would both make notes.
You were a dream team?
I think we were!
How was your experience with TSW?
It was good, and it was seamless. We had to fill out the form at the start to get the funding for us through the college. Then, we had to fill in a registration form for TSW. Once I had sent that off, I immediately had to join instructions from Lindsay and from TSW with my login details. I met with Lindsay, went through Smart Assessor. She was great with that. She taught me how to upload work, how I needed to edit things, what I needed to put in the description boxes, making sure I sign everything off. For me, it was seamless. It was easy.
What’s the next professional step for you?
I want to stay within mental health and wellbeing. That is something that is quite important to me.
We’ve got mentoring roles within the college and I’ve applied for a Learning Coach role - it's half an LSA and half a mentor role with foundation students. I want to progress from there to become some sort of coordinator or a manager. My Level 4 in Leadership and Management will support me with that.
The Information, Advice and Guidance qualification has given me the confidence that I needed along with all the other qualifications that I’ve done. Besides the Leadership & Management qualification that I’ve completed, the others are all mental health-related. This is something that I want to stick to. I’m definitely looking to develop in this career path.