As a new Business Consultant for Business Services at Midkent College, in Maidstone and Medway, Helen Topliss has become one of the ‘go to’ people for sorting out your business training and recruitment needs. Appointed only in January this year Helen has brokered a range of services to businesses as far away as London with clients who are already reporting good customer satisfaction rates. We catch up with Helen during a break at the Medway campus and ask her what plans she has for her new role and how businesses in the South East can benefit from new opportunities and services provided by the college?
DBM: Congratulations on getting your new position. Please explain to our readers exactly what services you offer and who can benefit?
Helen Topliss: Firstly, I’m delighted to have joined the team and look forward to further developing the four key services we currently offer to employers, which are bespoke training programmes, the Microsoft IT Academy offering courses on IT skills, the Job Shop which offers recruitment services and apprenticeships. I am currently building a network of contacts to raise the profile of Business Services at MidKent College. We have a team of training consultants with the knowledge and experience to improve organisations from top to bottom. Since January we have worked with clients in the financial services sector in London delivering a Leadership and Management programme. We are also in discussion with a charity based in Ashford and are looking to provide training for construction companies intending to bid for larger contracts. Business Services at Midkent College would be delighted to hear from any other companies seeking solutions to their training and recruitment needs.
What areas of training have been most in demand recently? Does this reflect the wider problems faced by small businesses and start-ups in the community?
Most start-ups and small businesses lack adequate finance and banks are cautious to get involved in this part of the market, especially start-ups with no history. Our team have links to enable us to signpost a new business to various loans and grant schemes. A sector with a significant future training need is retail, which is forecasted to rise by 2% in Kent and Medway. Our Business Services department can help with providing training in customer care. We also have a new sales and marketing e-learning package and offer other essential business skills programmes.
Have you always been in the area of professional training? What is your career history up to this point?
I have had a varied career. I see myself as a facilitator- enabling effective links to be built between business and education. That‘s what I specialise in and have done so since I formed ‘Effective Partnerships’ (my company) in 2004. I provide services to MidKent College as a contractor. I originally qualified as a teacher in 1984, working in primary, secondary schools and Further Education, teaching many subjects including Maths, Psychology and English as a foreign language but left when my children were young and started my own business, Chapel Craft handmade greeting cards. I sold my products into Waterstones and a range of other High Street outlets but decided to return to education in 2000, as a Community Learning Advisor. Networking and building lasting, sustainable business relationships has been my niche ever since, forging partnerships between education and the wider community.
With all your drive, do you have any ambitions left to conquer, in both your professional and personal life?
Personally, I ‘m building up my stamina for a charity walk across the Pyrenees this summer. Ten miles a day sounds daunting! Professionally, in my new role, I would like to reach out to as many businesses in the region to establish new partnerships with Business Services at MidKent College.
Finally in your opinion are entrepreneurs born or made?
They are probably born leaders, but people with good ideas and support can be excellent entrepreneurs: it’s all about having a vision and a good product with excellent business planning.