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How Did I Get Here? Niall Gavin, Sussex Police


Niall Gavin
How did you come to work in training?
I was a professional actor, which I pursued for 12 years. I performed in theatre and some TV, but much of my time was spent “resting”, during which I mostly temped in offices across London. I was offered a permanent job for a training company as their office manager and that was when I first touched a computer. Two years later, my wife and I started our own IT training company, which ran successfully until I decided to separate working life and family life and I went to work as an applications trainer for a local IT company in Brighton. From there, I applied for and became the IT Training Manager for Sussex Police, a role I have held now for seven years. No regrets so far…

Describe your role
I manage the end-user IT training for 4,700 staff across Sussex. I line manage 12 trainers and an IT training centre at our HQ in Lewes. We deliver user training for local bespoke, national Police, office productivity and new project delivered systems. I report to the head of training in the HR department, but also sit on the IT department management team as well, with a “dotted-line” responsibility to the head of IT. I also sit as “senior training” on all the force IT project boards.
I have noted some bullet points which I copied from an article about Management Guru Abe Wagner (first published in People Management and reproduced with permission). As a set of guiding principles in my role as IT Training Manager for Sussex Police, they immediately struck me as relevant and useful, without being difficult to understand. I have had a copy of this sheet on the wallboard in my office since then and have tried to apply them where appropriate ever since
• Say it straight or you’ll show it crooked
• Understand your goals and direct your activity to accomplish them
• Treat yourself and others with dignity and respect
• Be self-determining and help others to the be the same
• Be responsible for your own thinking, feeling and behaviour
• Live in the here and now
• Speak with the purpose of resolving issues, rather than proving you’re right
• Continue what works and modify or discontinue what does not work
• Ask for what you want and invite others to do the same
• Make agreements that you are willing, and intend, to keep
• Give, accept and ask for positive strokes and constructive feedback
• In a conflict, communicate only with people who can help you resolve that conflict

What activities do you spend most of your time on?
Scheduling six-monthly training plans and resourcing them; appraising and developing my staff to deliver those plans; attending management, team and project meetings.

Is training in your organisation mainly organised according to a strategic plan, or mainly arranged when a need has become evident?
Strategic, servicing the needs of the Force Corporate Plan, the Local Policing Plan and the Departmental Performance Plans of both the HR and the IT Departments.

Is any of your training accredited by external bodies?
Our Force's training branch is accredited by Centrex, the central Police training provider. My own team, the IT Training Unit, is accredited by the Institute of IT Training and has been for the last three years.

Do you feel that training has a high enough profile in your organisation?
As regards visibility, yes. As regards recognition of value and need for investment, it could be improved.

How do you demonstrate the value of your department to your organisation?
We have adopted the National Police Costing Model and are working on improving our performance measures and indicators.

What influences do you think have had the greatest impact on the training sector in recent years?
The need to align training plans with organisational business goals and demonstrate the measurable return on the training investment. The need to provide a range of training interventions to suit all learning styles in a more flexible, timely manner.

Do you think that training professionals should have a greater say in planning national training policy?
Yes. I strongly support the Institute of IT Training and other professional bodies in this respect.

How do you see your work changing or developing in the next few years?
I see my current role developing into that of a “Head of Profession” for IT Training being delivered less centrally by devolved IT trainers across the Force area. To make the IT Training Unit a consultancy service, providing expertise and resource for implementing new systems in partnership with the system owners and their own key or super users. To maintain quality control and provide the necessary knowledge updates for local trainers as systems are upgraded, working practices changed or new systems introduced. To ensure the consistency and quality of all ongoing IT training across the Force, no matter where or how it is being delivered.


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