Always Consult still top at ten!

Tenth Anniversary photo
From left to right: Cathy Bryant, Helen Trow, MD Carol Ewels, Roddy Christie and Adrian Pitt.


You’ll have heard the expression: “A year is a long time in business”? How about ten years?!

Facing change
In 2019, Always Consult Ltd celebrates a decade doing what it does best – helping people to reach peak performance. Managing Director, Carol Ewels, set up the company following a career as a highly experienced Senior Business Leader. This included more than 20 years’ service with Barclays Bank PLC, working in a variety of management and leadership roles. She says: “We’ve all had trying times in our lives. One of mine was facing redundancy. I didn’t want to hang up my heels, so, the challenge was – what’s next?”

Collaborating is the key!
Carol’s passion is developing people. She took her knowledge, skills and experience, packaged them up and Always Consult was born! Carol explains: “I can’t take all the credit! Over the years, I’ve met some like-minded enthusiastic professionals who’ve taken my business from strength to strength. Collaboration is where it’s at.” She continues: “Self-employment can be a bit of a lonely life. Therefore, I made it my mission to team up with other trainers with a similar working ethos, I helped them to specialise, identify their skill sets that maybe I didn’t possess and now we’re offering a diverse and engaging training portfolio.”

Let them eat cake!
Always Consult associate, Adrian Pitt, explains how coffee and cake transformed his business! Ade says: “I bumped into Carol “virtually” on Linkedin. We met for a cuppa and a slice of apple pie and the rest is history!” “Our fledgling companies appeared to be heading in the same direction. Potentially, Carol, could have been a rival trainer. However, the collaborative model that me, Carol and another of our colleagues, Sheila, adopted in the early days has worked brilliantly for us ever since.”

Future focus…
Now, with even more team members on board, Carol’s looking forward to the future: “There’s never a dull moment! We’ve branched out into Leadership and Management Apprenticeships thanks to our colleague, Roddy, our Careers and Advice and Guidance qualifications are extremely well-respected, our brand new associate, Craig, is taking our Education and Training programmes forward and Sheila has added an “international flavour” to the mix by working for us in Portugal!”

Who knows what the next ten years holds for Always Consult? It appears that a tremendous amount of hard work, resilience, enthusiasm, collaboration, commitment, coffee and cake-eating are the key to running a successful training business!

Find Always Consult Ltd at


Are Careers Advisers too humble?


One of my Linkedin careers contacts, Janet Colledge, made an extremely interesting point this week. Following some recent media attention of the sector (not all-together favourable, from what I believe?!), Janet posted online: “We need to start promoting the benefits of professional careers advice…”

Janet strongly believes “clarity of purpose” should be high on the list.

In response, I exclaimed: “For YEARS this topic has vexed me, as someone who dabbled with the DipCG, was one of the “new breed” Connexions Personal Advisers and now trains and accredits Level 3 and 4 Advice and Guidance staff and Level 4 and 6 Careers practitioners.

When WILL the sector (and staff) receive the respect that it (and they) deserve? From my experience, when staff undergo training, they soon realise that “careers” isn’t a cosy chat for half-an-hour and the days when the Geography or PE teacher told them to go and “work down t’pit” or “be a secretary” were nonsensical!

Alas, I often feel we’re going backwards. Only today, I received a call from a lady who’s the school librarian and has been asked to “do careers”. Plus, while I understand it’s great to have different routes into a profession, what WAS wrong with the Diploma in Careers Guidance, back in the day? A well-respected qualification.”

What are YOUR thoughts?

Is “Career Information, Advice and Guidance” still misunderstood by “the world and his wife (and kids!)” and are Advisers too humble to be blowing those proverbial trumpets?


Develop-meant Training Consultants website

Next time, I’ll pick up the phone!

Angry Man article

The wrangles I’ve had of late with two large UK companies and their online supposed “customer service” (I’ll try not to do those air inverted commas that I find so irritating!).

The first, a well-known energy company, has an email “Contact Us” facility that I’ve put through its paces. To date, I’ve cut and pasted all the online correspondence between us and I’m left with something that, if printed off, is akin to the size of the Domesday Book!

The second, a world-famous High Street pharmacy proudly boasts: “Create and order your photos on our website for Same Day Collection!” Here’s a case of: “Some Day My Prints Will Come” as, 72 hours later, I’m still waiting for ’em! This time around, we have an online chat facility. I couldn’t be any clearer tapping my concerns into the corner of the screen. “We can assure you Mr Pitt your photos ARE in store awaiting collection. Please check your order history for confirmation.”

Order History > “In Progress” > Order Status > “We Are Still Creating Your Order”

When you review the emails from my electricity provider, it appears that all initial enquiries are dealt with via some far-flung part of the planet. Likewise with the High Street chain. It’s apparent that a lot of the responses are pre-programmed and “bog standard”, either that, or the Chat Agent I just liaised with types faster than the speed of sound!

On reflection, I don’t think it’s the actual customer service that I’m knocking – the online staff are consummate professionals – however, neither of my quandaries have resulted in outcomes that meet my satisfaction.

My “other half” says: “Why don’t you pick up the phone?!” It’s a solution! Although, why offer alternative ways of dealing with customers when they’re obviously not robust enough?

Have I just had a run of bad luck?


Evaluation: “The biscuits were soggy!”

soggy biscuit

Is it too much to ask that the learners who attend our training courses give consideration to the blood, sweat and tears (and beers!) that go into designing our programmes?

Do they acknowledge the hours of research we undertake to demonstrate that we “know our stuff”? Do they think about the careful planning and timing that goes into each of the
activities? Do they realise we’ve thought long and hard about meeting individual needs, inclusivity and different learning styles?

So, when it comes to them evaluating what we do – with our feedback forms looking for qualitative thoughts and reflection – why is it we get: “The toilets were TOO far away
from the training room…” and: “The biscuits were soggy!”??!!

Have you received any weird (yet slightly wonderful!) comments that have made you smile (or sigh with disbelief!) at the end of a training course?


The Apprenticeship Levy

It has been a while since the start of the government’s new Apprenticeship Levy scheme and it would be fair to say that it has not been entirely plain sailing.  The statistics show a 61% decrease in apprenticeship starts since May 2017, compared to the same period in 2016.  By the end of August, only half of eligible, levy-paying companies had registered to use their levy.

The roll out of the Apprenticeship Levy has been highly criticised by industry experts who, rightly it seems, claim that eligible employers did not understand the system or its application to their businesses.  Adding to the poor understanding of the ‘Levy’ is the equally misunderstood term – ‘Apprentice’.  To many the stereotypical apprentice looks something like the one in the photo: a young 16 – 18-year-old fresh out of school and starting a vocational qualification, whereas the reality is that it could be anyone 16 -64 years old, who is doing one of over 200 on-the-job learning courses to up-skill them.


With all this confusion it seemed worth highlighting some facts surrounding the Apprenticeship Levy:

  • If you are an employer with a wage bill of £3m per annum or more then you are paying the Apprenticeship Levy.
  • The Levy is drawn down monthly (from April 2017) through the PAYE system at a rate 0.5% of your wage bill over £3m per annum.
  • It is held centrally by the government and can be used by the contributing employer to fund apprenticeship training, delivered by an approved training provider.
  • Employers have 2 years to utilise funds or they are lost.
  • An Apprentice can be someone newly hired into your organisation, specifically as an apprentice, who will undertake their training with your company as a precursor to hopefully securing a fulltime job.
  • Apprentices can also be an existing member of staff who the company wishes to upskill through the delivery of an on the job training course.
  • Develop-meant with Always Consult Ltd specialise in the delivery of on the job, leadership and management training to existing employees.  We can conduct an organisational needs analysis to identify the people that would benefit most from this training.

Perhaps most crucial of all – do not see the Apprenticeship Levy as another tax.  The money is yours to use and can buy you valuable training, that will enhance the productivity of your staff and the efficiency of your organisation.

If you would like more information or an informal chat about how apprenticeships could help your organisation, then please call Carol Ewels at Always Consult on 03334 442467 or email:


Laughable lines from learners in training sessions!

dog homework-001

I’ve been a trainer for the best part of 25 years. I’m STILL amazed by the lines some learners come out with in the training room, thinking me and my colleagues haven’t heard them before. Can you relate to any of these humdingers?!

A delegate barges into the training room for the first time, no introduction, the session hasn’t even started yet and asks: “What time do we finish?”

A small clique of learners sat disgruntled since 9am. YOU know you’re starting at 9:30am. Their MANAGER knows the session starts at 9:30am (he/she had an email confirming “kick off ” weeks ago). You announce: “We’ll get underway at 9:30am folks.” Only to hear: “Well, WE were told it started at 9 o’clock!”

Following Workshop 1, you set the group a task to submit and complete before the second session. It’s now Day 2 and one of the learners approaches you prior to starting and says: “Did you manage to take a look at my work that I emailed at 11.59pm last night?”

“Morning everyone! Before we start, can I just check that you’ve all printed off the workbook I sent you ten days ago via email?” Reply from at least four people: “I didn’t get your email!”

“Hi, hello! It’s Adrian is it? You’re the trainer? Yes? OK! Hmmm…would you mind if I kept my mobile phone on because, I’m SO full of my own self-importance, I’m waiting for a VERY important call and, if I don’t answer it, planet Earth will implode…?”

Slightly embarrassed, half-in-half-out-of-the-doorway: “Excuse me? Is this the session on Sexually Transmitted Infections?!”

“My Manager sent me.”

“Can I have the window open* closed* air conditioning on* air conditioning off* radiator on* radiator off* blinds up* blinds down*?” <delete as applicable!!>

Thanks for completing this evaluation form. What’s the biggest learning point you’ll take away from this training session today? “The sandwiches were rank!”


Click here for our website!

Giving young people the best chance to achieve their full potential

Fifteen careers advisors with Telford & Wrekin Council have been awarded the highest level of diploma for their “passion, determination and commitment” in supporting young people in the Borough into education, employment or training.

After 18 months of study and assessments with Always Consult and Develop-meant, they have all been presented with their Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development and were praised for their part in ensuring 95% of last year’s school-leavers got a job, went into training, or continued in education.

Awarding the certificates at Meeting Point House in Telford town centre on Thursday 12 January, Katherine Kynaston, Assistant Director Business Development & Employment at Telford & Wrekin Council said: “I’m very proud of what you do. A lot of what you achieve is fundamentally down to the passion, determination and commitment that you put into the job. It underpins our ability to make sure those young people have the best possible chance in life. You are not just giving them advice and guidance, you are enthusing them and inspiring them – that is absolutely what this is all about.”

The advisors are members of the Future Focus Careers Service or National Careers Service; all part of Telford & Wrekin Council’s Job Box service which has already reduced youth unemployment in the Borough by 50%.
Councillor Gilly Reynolds, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment & Regeneration said: “Our schools, our students and young people can be sure that our advisors, by achieving this level of diploma, are giving them the best impartial professional guidance. When we talk to business investors wanting to come to our borough, they ask us if we can deliver the highly skilled local people they need to make their business flourish. I’m very proud that we can and that, as a business winning business supporting Council, our approach to employment and skills is seen as a selling point by potential investors here.”
FutureFocus is a  support service for 13 – 19 year olds or up to 25 years if you have additional needs. FutureFocus advisors provide impartial information, advice and guidance on careers and future planning.
The National Careers Service (NCS) provides information, advice and guidance to adults over 20 and support for those unemployed on new Universal Job Match to help you make decisions on learning, training and work opportunities. Further information about these services can be found at

Stop messing with your mobile!


I had a Manager who believed that delegates should leave their phones/email alone when they were on training. This was THEIR protected time for their development, without distractions. This must have sunk in with ‘yours truly’ as my phone is off and I don’t look at it during breaks whenever I attend a course. I make staff and clients aware that I’m away, what I’m doing, “out of office” etc.

A colleague and I delivered a session this week. During a break, a delegate got her laptop out, tuned into our Wi-Fi and started working, answering emails etc. When break was over and the next activity started, she was STILL on her machine in the background! Downright rude! It called for one of us to be assertive and ask her to re-join the group.

Are mobiles a menace?!



Oh no! I hate role play!

Role play 3

Every now and again, we include role play in some of our training sessions. More often than not, one or two learners will sigh and make it quite clear that they HATE HATE HATE role play!

One of my colleagues calls it “skills practice”. Nevertheless, however hard we try to “wrap it up” as something woolly and fluffy, for some folk, it’s like we’re asking them to walk across barbed wire!

Why do you think this is? Do you have any top tips to convince the cringers in the audience to go with it?


The Smiling Assassin!


You’ve had an amazing day’s training. All your fears, doubts and apprehension around whether the session would go well are unfounded. Fifteen happy learners, fully engaged. They’ve loved the content, enjoyed the activities and even laughed at your jokes!

Fifteen happy learners filling out evaluation forms – or so you thought!

<Cue scary laughter>

You review the feedback. Gasp! Fourteen happy learners and then someone I call “The Smiling Assassin”. Fourteen learners thought you were the “Torville and Dean” of trainers. HE thought you were “Eddie The Eagle Edwards”. Fourteen learners would shout from the rooftops that you’re the reincarnation of Albert Einstein. HE thought you were an extra from “The Only Way Is Essex”. Fourteen learners hung on your every word the whole day long. HE hung on for dear life!

Have you ever been faced with this situation? How did you deal with it? Did you brush the comments off? Did you approach the disgruntled delegate? How can us trainers deal with “smiling assassins”?!