Amanda Lowe, HR Strategy Manager, Ofgem

Amanda LowePast staff surveys have shown that learning and development opportunities are seen as one of the biggest benefits of working at Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets).

Ofgem is the regulator for the gas and electricity industries and employs approximately 300 staff in two offices - London and Glasgow.

Ofgem's HR team coordinates a programme of core training which allows staff to develop the basic skills that enable them to undertake their duties and effectively contribute to the delivery of Ofgem's business objectives.

This core programme includes IT training courses such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access. The courses are generally run off-site and are mainly at intermediate and advanced level due to the nature of specialist and technical staff that Ofgem attracts.

At the end of each course delegates are asked to complete an evaluation form to assess their immediate reaction to the training. Several weeks later, interviews are held with both the delegate and the line manager to assess whether delegates are using their new skills back in the workplace, whether improvements could be made to the course and whether the delegate has any additional training needs.

In general, delegates' feedback is that they find courses enjoyable, their understanding of the particular package increases and they usually start using their skills on their return to the workplace. However, there is some demand for IT training to run in a modular format, which would fit in better with their time constraints and overcome the problem of some of the course content being less relevant to some people. It's something we may consider for the future.

IT surgeries are an important feature of our programme. Although these are more costly to provide than standard training courses, they are often more effective as individual sessions can be tailored to staff requirements and realistic action plans formulated for implementation back in the workplace. An additional benefit is that sessions can be tailored around the staff member's own timetable.

Training needs are identified through ongoing discussion between staff and line managers. If a need is identified which is not covered in the core training programme, staff are encouraged to find their own courses with the help of an intranet page with links to courses staff have attended in the past. For example, recently, staff have attended Java and Dreamweaver courses.

Ofgem's IT department has its own training budget and a number of staff in the department have studied for their MCSE and undertaken further specialist training.

Members of the IT team also attend the Microsoft conference every year to keep up to date with developments.