Tuesday, 28 July 2015

What's in a logo?

Kate Winter, ABE's Marketing Director, explains the rationale behind ABE's new branding

In my long marketing career, I have initiated re-branding projects and I’ve also been a team member who has had re-branding ‘forced’ on them.  The latter is not a nice place to be. When you don’t understand why a brand is being changed, and you don’t like the new identity, it is impossible to support the project. I once had a new marketing director who breezed in to the company, changed all the branding, and breezed out again, leaving a lot of devastation in her wake.

I wanted to share this with you now that we have unveiled ABE’s new branding.  The timing of the re-brand comes after ABE has made some significant changes internally.  I am one member of a new senior management team appointed by Gareth Robinson, ABE’s CEO, who has been in situ since December 2014. Gareth has assembled his new team with the objective of introducing great energy and results in to the business. He wants to ensure that ABE provides worthwhile qualifications and great customer service, and he is passionate about delivering quality qualifications to our learners.
The new management team is overseeing the transformation of ABE. We have already seen a host of new qualifications being accepted onto the Ofqual framework. These qualifications have been created to reflect current thinking and best practice in business management.  We are currently inviting our centres to pilot the new schemes and reaction so far has been extremely positive.

We have also invested in a new Learner Management System which will make it easier for our learners to interact with us and have clear visibility of their progress through our schemes.  In tandem, we are developing new web sites which will use responsive technology, so that users will have a better experience on their mobile phones when accessing the site and members’ area.
As a backdrop to all of this, we have been undertaking extensive student surveys to find out what our learners think we do well, and what needs to be improved.  It is heartening to hear from thousands of learners that ABE qualifications helped them get their first job or gain the promotion they wanted. Indeed, many of our learners go on to run their own successful enterprises or get responsible positions in government departments and large corporations.

When I came to ABE in March, my first impression with regards to the branding was that it was doing a good job.  There was nothing really wrong at all, but I felt it lacked an element of inspiration. It was when I started reading the testimonials of students that I began to really understand their achievements and how ABE connects them to a world of opportunity. It just seemed right that we should somehow reflect this in our branding. Additionally we felt that ABE is a journey for our learners. They start out on a road with a vision of what they want to achieve. They study with dedication and they achieve their qualifications; many of them stay with us to keep on achieving and pushing themselves. This is now demonstrated in our logo with a pathway – we like to call it the road to success.

The new brand is being applied to exciting campaigns we are running to support our centres. We are currently sending out printed posters as well as digital banners to help prospective students gain awareness of ABE.  We will be rolling out the branding on certificates in due course, but I would like to mention that the branding itself does not affect the certificate validity in any way. In fact it is the Ofqual recognition that is the real currency for our learners.  This remains the same on all our certificates.

By and large, reaction so far has been hugely positive. I know all too well that change isn’t always easy, but together with the rest of the team here at ABE, I am very confident that all the change we are introducing will result in a better experience for our learners and our accredited centres. It is because of them that we exist, and they are at the heart of everything we do.

Kate Winter, July 2015

Monday, 29 June 2015

Five ways to make sure you never stop learning

An author called Anthony D'Angelo once said: “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”   It is also likely to ensure you enjoy a long and successful career.  Here are five suggestions to help you develop both your knowledge and your career, from ABE Marketing Director, Kate Winter:
  1. Keep investing in yourself.   Once you start working do short courses, online courses and find out what your organisation will do to support your continued professional development.
  2. Join professional institutions.  This will give you plenty of opportunity for professional advancement and keep you up to date with the latest industry thinking.
  3. Make the effort to go to industry events – apart from keeping you informed about what is going on more widely in your sector, once you start to become recognised and make contacts you will become a known industry figure and this will help your professional reputation as well as your industry knowledge.
  4. Read widely to keep yourself up to date. For example, technology is changing processes ever faster.  Ensure you are ahead of the curve and remain aware of trends that could impact on your business. This will hone your ability to anticipate MACRO environmental factors and plan accordingly.  If you are seen to do this you will gain the on-going respect of your colleagues.
  5. Ask a senior member of staff to mentor you.  Choose someone who is admired and respected for their values as well as having the career you aspire to.  See how they do things, learn and follow best practice but don’t mimic.  You need to have your own voice and use your knowledge and experience to develop your own way of doing things.
At ABE, a passion for learning is our business, and we believe investing in your professional development is the most important investment you will ever make.   Find out more at www.abeuk.com

Kate Winter is a skilled brand manager who has marketed professional certification schemes for The Treasury, The World Bank, ISACA and CESG (part of GCHQ). She joined ABE to head up its marketing department from APMG International where she played a key role in bringing innovations to market.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Ten steps to help you become a great business leader

ABE CEO, Gareth Robinson, has many years’ experience as a Chief Executive and a Managing Director.  Here, he shares his thoughts on some of the steps you need to take to start and grow a highly successful enterprise.

1. Do some soul-searching
Spend some time reflecting on your beliefs, your passions, your intentions for your new venture, and what your ideal company would look like.

2. Pick the right type of business and do your research
Before starting a new venture consider not only the business itself, but the characteristics of the industry you're selecting. Evaluate the financials carefully - how much you stand to earn, and how other businesses in the sector are faring - before you make up your mind.

3. Figure out how much money you'll need
Make sure you do not invest more than you can personally afford.  Decide how much money you need to survive no matter what goes wrong? Also, don’t let your business fail through under investment.  You need to assess the capital you should have right from the start.

4. Hire the right people
"Business is like sports: the best team usually wins” so don’t think you have to do everything yourself.  Hire people you can rely on, whose skills will complement your own and bring a greater pool of talent to the business.

5. Create a winning culture
"Culture is a living organism that requires constant monitoring and shaping."  Make sure the culture of your organisation encourages innovation and is flexible enough to adapt to changing times.

6. Learn empathy
The ability to empathise with others doesn't just make you a better person, it also makes you better at business.

7. Find the metrics that matter most
Spend some time thinking through what success really looks like, and which numbers you need to move to really be successful.

8. Use incentives
Incentives are powerful ways to encourage the behaviour you want from all stakeholders, from employees to customers to suppliers.

9. Experiment in stages
Every industry, and every business, faces constant change, and you will need to keep changing if you want sustained success. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES.

10. Keep your eye on the future
Running a successful company is a day-to-day challenge. It can be easy to lose sight of the long term, so make sure you have the time and mental space to think about where your business - and you - are heading.

A well-designed business qualification will give you the practical skills and know-how to start and run a business and get ahead in your career.  Lots of ABE graduates are now running their own businesses.  If you are one of them, share your thoughts.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Profile: How studying ABE helped learner, Jessica Reed, start her own business!

Hi Jessica. Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m originally from Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire (UK) but moved to Shrewsbury to live with my dad nearly two years ago. Before studying with ABE I completed a Level 3 Business Admin course, also at Shrewsbury College.

Why did you choose to study ABE?
An ex-member of the college staff inspired me to stretch and challenge my business skills following on from my Business Admin course.

You’re studying at Shrewsbury College – what was your experience there like?
I’ve really enjoyed it. All the staff are very supportive and overall with the business course I found it to be a very immersive experience.

Tell us a bit about Churros City
Churros City is a small business that sells Churros, which is a Spanish dessert delicacy. We sell it at events, markets and food festivals.
My dad made an impulse purchase a few years ago and brought the majority of the equipment to make churros in an auction on eBay. When I joined the ABE course I dug around in the garage and realised that I had the start of a business.

Where did the idea for the name come from?
Churros City was just a bad pun that my dad came up with, ‘Satisfy your Churros City’, but it looks great as a logo and people seem to remember it.

Who else do you work with?
I work with my dad, his partner and a family friend.

Where are you based?
Churros City is based in Shrewsbury but we travel to various festivals and markets.

What sort of events have you catered for?
The biggest event we had done so far is The Green Gathering festival in Chepstow. We have also been at Beaumaris Food Festival, Oswestry Market, the Oswestry Christmas Fair and various fun days.

Where do you see the company going?
It’s only early days as I set Churros City up half way through 2014. This year I am looking to do more festivals and slowly grow the business. The business fits in a trailer so anything is possible. We are taking bookings if anyone out there is looking for something a bit different!

What skills have you gained from studying with ABE?
ABE has improved my skills massively. It’s taught me about many different business skills, which have helped enormously with my confidence when I am faced with challenges within the business.

How did studying ABE help you when starting Churros City?
ABE has specifically helped me get my business plan together, financial planning and develop a strategic marketing plan. On top of this my tutor Amelia has offered a lot of support from the beginning, which has been an amazing help. The other students on the course are also very supportive, sharing ideas and feedback as well as offering to be taste testers!

What is the best thing about studying with ABE?
The best thing about this ABE course is that it has helped with Churros City and that Churros City helps me with this ABE course.

What are your long-term career plans for the future?
I think it’s too early to say, but at the moment I am thoroughly enjoying both my study and my business. We will see where they take me!

You can find out more about Jessica's business from www.churroscity.co.uk

This interview first appeared in the May issue of ABE Members' magazine, Student Focus.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Make your CV work for you

The process of applying for jobs can be time-consuming and stressful.  Here are our tips to help you make sure your CV (or resume) gets you selected for that all important interview.

Keep it short and snappy
When you’re applying for a job it can be tempting to try to include every detail about yourself you can possibly think of but this just puts off the reader.    HR professionals recommend:
  • No more than two pages for junior positions, no more than three for more senior. 
  • Short sentences and bullet points rather than long paragraphs
  • Plenty of white space so it’s easy for the reader to pick out key details. 
Work on a great personal statement
This should be no more than three or four sentences summarising your own individual strengths and skills.   It’s ideal if this comprises of skills you can demonstrate and that are unique to you.

Show your experience
Start with your most recent employer and work backwards.  Summarise what the company did, give a short description of your role (it’s fine to use bullet points) and highlight your achievements. 
Don’t leave gaps in your CV but, if in the past you have spent time doing several similar jobs that are not particularly relevant or worked in a large number temporary roles, you can summarise this with a general heading and one or two examples.

Be specific
If you did something on your own or led a project make sure this is clear.  Don’t use general sentences that leave the reader with no idea what your involvement comprised of.   For your achievements it’s great if you can give an example of how you helped to reduce costs, improve efficiency or increase revenue.  But if not, quote an anecdotal example of something you have been praised for.   Quoting an endorsement from a previous line manager with their name and title can be a strong way of making your CV stand out.

Don’t make one size fit all
If you are applying for a variety of positions in different industries you need different versions of your CV so you can highlight strengths and experience most appropriate to the sector and role. 
There may be regional and cultural differences according the country you are in.  For example, in the UK, Times New Roman, is considered a dated font and CVs in this typeface do not have a contemporary feel.    Likewise, in the UK, HR managers expect you to refer to yourself in the first person as in “I did” rather than using your name.  However this may not be the case in all countries so if you are applying overseas check local cultural expectations.

Stress your qualifications
Employers value qualifications and you have worked hard to get them.  ABE’s qualifications have many directly work-related learning outcomes so highlight those that match the skills required of the job you are applying for. Also, highlight that they are accredited by Ofqual, the UK government's qualifications authority, which means you can prove that you have met a required quality and level.

Good luck.

First published in Student Focus, the magazine for ABE Members.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

ABE’s Top Tips to Help You Pass Your Exams – Part 2: On the Day!

You’ve worked hard,  you’ve followed our Top Tips for Revision.  Now all you’ve got to do is sit your exam.  To help you get the grade you deserve, follow these simple steps to exam success.
  1. Read each questions thoroughly to make sure you understand exactly what is expected of you.   Underline all the command words in the question (these are the ‘instruction’ words, such as ‘identify’, ‘describe’ or ‘explain’).
  2. Ask yourself  ‘what does the examiner want me to do?’ so you can give the kind of answer they are looking for. 
  3. Plan how you are going to answer the question and tick off each item when you have completed it. Make sure that your answer covers all the command words used in the question.  
  4. Take a note of the time allowed for each question and plan your answers accordingly.
  5. Keep your answers concise.  You won’t get extra marks for giving information that is not required and it wastes your valuable time.
We recommend you read the document called:  Examination Guidance for Students and Colleges, in the Members Area  under QCF/NQF resources.  It is packed with really useful information including a section on command words which tells you what examiners are looking for according to the words they use – knowing this could make all the difference to your final grade.

Finally, keep calm and remember the exam is only there to help you prove what you have learnt.
We wish you every success. 

Here are some previous blogs with further advice you may find helpful: 
How to revise
How to study
Do share any top tips of your own.
Good luck.

ABE’s Top Tips to Help You Pass Your Exams – Part 1: Revision

Exams are looming and it’s a stressful time!   Everyone tells you to just relax and do your best.  Great advice, but easier said than done!   One thing that can help is feeling well prepared.  With this in mind, we have summarised some top tips to getting top grades:
  1. Thoroughly understand the learning outcomes for the units you are sitting.  Every exam paper will contain at least one question relating to each learning outcome so thoroughly understanding them will put you on the path to success. For more information go to the Members Area and read the Study Tips and syllabus for your unit.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Sometimes it can feel embarrassing if everyone else seems to understand something and you don’t.  But don’t let what others might think stop you from asking questions if you feel you don't fully understand an explanation (your peers may well be wondering the same thing).  So, if there is anything you are not sure about, ask your tutor to explain it then check and double check your understanding is correct.  
  3. Identify your weak areas.  Test yourself using past papers from the Members Area and set a three hour time limit.   Then check the examiners’ reports and suggested answers to see where you did well and where you may need further revision. Make sure you do this early enough to allow plenty of time to develop any weaker areas.    Your college may well organise this for you. If so, make sure you pay close attention to any feedback you are given.
  4. Develop a wider understanding of your subject.  Make full use of the ABE resources, academic database and recommended reading lists to ensure you have a broad knowledge of the subject.  The test questions will not be exactly the same as in past papers so gaining a thorough understanding of the subject gives you the best chance of understanding a question in any context.
  5. Devise a learning method that works for you.  Use this link to take our fun learning style quiz  to check what type of learner you are.  If you know what helps you memorise and understand best you can build this into your revision.
We hope that you find this useful and wish you every success in the forthcoming exams. 
Here are some previous blogs with further advice you may find helpful: 
How to revise
How to study

And look out for ABE's Top Tips to Help You Pass Exams - Part 2 On the Day

Do share any top tips of your own.
Good luck.