L&D QuestionTime – Velda Barnes

This week we catch up with Velda Barnes Head of Learning & Development at Addaction.

In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?

Whilst I have always adopted a consultative approach to ensure what we deliver is meeting the needs of the organisation, one of my anxieties is that it is currently very difficult for us to evidence that what we are doing is having a positive impact over time meaning in essence that we cannot currently really ‘prove our worth’.

This also means we may be dedicating precious resources to activities that are not making a real difference to the working practices of our staff which is also a concern.

Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

First and foremost has to be what’s happening in my organisation. We have recently merged with another charity and are undergoing a restructure so making sure our L&D remains fit for purpose and meets both existing and emerging learning needs is my main focus.

Of course, I keep an eye on what’s happening in the world of L&D from a variety of networks and sources. Learning Live has to be my favourite conference for both networking and learning and the Toward Maturity website has really useful resources for when I need to do more in-depth learning about something specific as well as providing the Benchmark which is something I find very helpful in shaping my thoughts about the future direction of our L&D provision.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

Whilst not really that new, the most exciting innovation I’ve seen recently is the development of really good learning management systems that combine learning with performance, provide a platform for social and collaborative learning that is genuinely mobile friendly and fully supports a blended learning approach.

Organisationally this would provide transparency about performance management but what really excites me is the data such a system can provide – the ability to properly evaluate the impact of learning will enable us to evidence where we are having a positive impact (and where we are not) so will help us to really focus our resources on those activities that do make a difference. I aspire to having one of these systems in my organisation…the business case has been submitted!!

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

I would like to see the Government review how it funds qualifications for adults and broaden out access to funding. Whilst the skills gap is talked about, the funding for qualifications is way too narrow in my opinion. For example, we put all our non-professionally qualified front line practitioners through a specialist level three qualification which sits on the QCF but does not attract any funding so a more meaningful methodology of supporting organisations to develop their staff and meet sector specific skills gaps would be very welcome.

Additionally, as many charities and not-for-profits are now undertaking contracts to provide health and social care services that used to be delivered in the public sector, I would like to see some recognition that we may not always have the most appropriate technological infrastructures in place so maybe a grant system or matched funding to enable us to make key investments in things like effective learning management systems would also be really helpful!

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?

I don’t really envisage it being vastly different to what it is today to be very honest although I would hope that we have made progress in areas such as mobile and social learning. We have already started to take on a curating role and this is something I see us doing more of as part of our blended approach.

Despite some L&D commentators predicting the end of face-to-face training, we still see a huge value in this for developing specific and crucial intervention skills for our staff so as far as I am concerned, this is something that will still be happening although with more emphasis on skills practice and development and with the knowledge based elements being delivered online.

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Honestly, nothing! Firstly I probably wouldn’t listen and secondly, I believe we are a product of our history and I’m really happy with who I am and where I am at in life right now so I wouldn’t want to risk creating any kind of ‘butterfly effect’ that would change my present.

About Velda

Velda joined Addaction in December 2000 as an Arrest Referral Worker after graduating in Criminology as a mature student, moving into management in 2002 and held various operational roles including being a Volunteer Coordinator which enabled her to undertake my PGCE in Adult Education.

She then joined the HR Department in 2009 and was supported and encouraged to develop creative ways to meet organisational learning needs, including developing Addaction’s first ever L&D strategy and securing investment to create our L&D team in 2011.

Velda now manages a team of talented and committed professionals and one of the best parts of her job is when what we do is recognised externally. Addaction has won numerous awards and have been accredited as a Silver Investors in People organisation.

Outside work, Velda love’s watching motor sports, reading and collecting glass art and am the proud mum of two rescue cats and two grown up sons. She also enjoys cooking and her fantasy dinner party would include Valentino Rossi, ‘Judge’ Robert Rinder and Noel Fitzpatrick, aka, the Supervet!

Connect with Velda on Twitter

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