HM Prison Service took home three gongs from the IITT awards in the categories of internal project, department and manager. Jacquie Rayner was crowned Training Manager of the Year and told Helen Boddy more about her role and why it's been so successful.

How did you get into training?

My first training job was with Warwickshire County Council where I trained social workers on how to interpret financial information and manage their budgets.

I was brought into the Prison Service in 1994 to conduct finance training and develop courses for senior management. I then moved to manage a team of trainers who were delivering training for roles that supported the running of the Prison Service, for example administration, finance, IT, personnel, and professional training, such as chaplaincy or construction.

How did you make the move into IT skills?

I was inspired by the first IT course that I went on. I was very impressed with the trainer and the skills I acquired. I was really keen to ensure that once the Prison Service was investing in new technology that I was part of it to ensure staff received the best possible training.

Until 2000 there was little IT connectivity across the Prison Service. However in 2001 EDS was contracted to provide our IT infrastructure and services. When the Prison Service contracts team was setting up the contract with EDS I moved to a role where I provided advice to the team regarding training. I then worked with EDS to produce a training strategy for the first part of the contract - installation of new IT and telephony infrastructure for 38,000 staff across England and Wales. I assessed and evaluated the training that EDS delivered.

What is your role now?

I work for the Programme Management Services Group as training manager on e-enabled business change programmes for the Prison Service.

Currently most of my time is spent on training strategy and management for a programme called Phoenix - so far the largest Oracle implementation in Europe - introducing an IT solution to move transactional work (procurement, HR, inventories) from prisons into a new shared service centre.

Training for the finance and procurement change has now been completed with 2,500 and 8,000 staff respectively being trained. Next is HR training, which we have just started delivering for 20,000 staff and will be completed in December 2009. We have also just begun planning training on the inventory application of Oracle, which will be delivered to 1,500 stores staff from June to September 2009.

The job includes managing the development of training materials, managing a team of freelance and Prison Service staff and conducting regular evaluation of the training provided. Stakeholder engagement is key and I spend a lot of time on working this.

I also provide a quality assurance role for commissioned training and delivery, working with the Prison Service’s quality assurance team and industry leaders.

What about IT training for staff and prisoners?

EDS provides ongoing basic IT skills training to prison staff and it delivers the technical training for IT support staff.

After any implementation is completed the training is handed over to the Prison Service's Learning and Development Team to oversee - it writes policies and the curriculum - and to Training Services to deliver for business as usual.

Prisoners' IT training is delivered through the Learning and Skills Council.

Do you go into prisons regularly?

During the implementation phase of a programme I go out to prisons a lot - to oversee the training. Prior to that I talk to staff about what the business change programme is going to deliver and about the training.

Otherwise, I'm mainly based in London now - I sit on various boards there.

How do you find the prison environment to work in?

Prisons are all very different from each other. The first one I went to was Wakefield, which is a high security prison. I did feel intimidated that first time, but actually, a prison can often be an inspiring place where the staff take a keen interest in the welfare of the prisoners and want to see them equipped to lead successful lives when they leave.

What does winning the IITT awards mean to you?

Winning the awards helps show the Prison Service that we are trying to deliver to a high standard. It shows that quality training is important if change programmes are to deliver their benefits. It helps us when we go in to talk to stakeholders - we are perhaps taken more seriously, I think.

It’s the first time that we've applied for external awards, and the Prison Service was very proud of our achievements. Our efforts were recognised by the Permanent Secretary who congratulated us.

What do you think makes a good training manager?

You need to have empathy for the end users, and always have in mind the end product, and the impact on other departments.

One of the skills that a training manager needs is to balance the requirements of the staff and the management, delivering the right training, in the right location at the right time. Consideration also needs to be given to other projects being implemented and the likely impacts on your programme, and vice versa, so keeping a bird’s eye view of what's happening across the business is important.

You need to be a good communicator with stakeholders, including internal departments and external contractors, and be clear, honest and tenacious. For example an outside consultant working on one of our major projects could not understand why we needed training on iProcurement as it was similar to using Amazon. I had to explain that training was necessary as the prison context had to be taken into account - users had to know about which prison codes to enter, which contracts they could use, and be made aware that they must follow certain procurement procedures as they are not spending their own money but public funds.

Having a finger on the pulse of the business is essential. I try to look across the Prison Service at what the business is doing, and to wear a commercial hat. I always do a cost benefit analysis of any training.

A good analytical mind is useful to look at a plan and change it quickly. If, for example, a project slips, you need to be able to re-plan. And you need to look at challenges and provide a number of solutions.

Good management skills are necessary to manage poor performers and reward good team members.

Finally, not letting go of your enthusiasm is important too. You can't let yourself be demoralised if there are problems that may impact training. They are just challenges to be overcome.

What advice would you give to someone looking for a similar job to yours?

Get as close as possible to someone doing the job already. Try to get a training manager to mentor or coach you. Get a training qualification - one that teaches you best practice, for example the CIPD's Certificate in Training Practice. Training Foundation also runs some really good courses for both trainers and training managers. Keep abreast of industry news. Learn from other organisations - I talked to NHS, RAC and KPMG about how they went about starting up learning centres. Seek lots of views and make up your own mind.

For someone starting out, institutes have some very useful members, such as Clive Shepherd on e-learning. You can learn a lot from them and membership doesn't cost a fortune. There are also some fabulous training networks around and you can link with like minded professionals to discuss any topic.

Jacquie's career timeline

Birmingham City Council, South Warwickshire Health Authority and Warwickshire County Council

  • 1981-1994: Variety of finance related posts, including training managers to manage their budgets

HM Prison Service

  • 1994-5: Finance training coordinator
    Conducted training needs analysis and designed and delivered training.
  • 1995-7: Head of management services training
    Managed the development and delivery of training for all support staff in finance, personnel and prisoner administration.
  • 1997-2001: Head of specialist training
    Developed training strategies and business plans. Managed the design, delivery, purchase, and evaluation of training in non-operational subjects
  • 2001-4: Quantum training manager
    Advice regarding training related to setting up contract with external IT service provider. Produced training strategy in partnership with supplier.
  • 2005-7 Phoenix Programme training manager
    Responsible for training on large Oracle implementation, including finance, HR and iProcurement.
  • Dec 2007-present: training manager: Providing a training consultancy service to e-enabled business change programmes, including remainder of Phoenix Programme rollout.