14/02/2013 06:28 GMT | Updated 14/04/2013 06:12 BST

Development - It's Not Just Child's Play

As a mother, midwife and nurse with over 30 years' experience, I feel I'm in a good position to understand the importance of effective childcare, within a nurturing and loving environment. Despite this, when the dream opportunity came to develop my childcare business in Cheshire five years ago I knew I needed some extra help for it to be a success.

Whilst nurseries are required to work within set guidelines, it is crucial not to underestimate the huge responsibility it is to look after someone's child. Not only is it imperative that the children feel safe, secure and happy, but that their parents see their time with us as a positive and valuable part of their overall development.

Development doesn't stop there. At our nursery, progression is built into all 30 of my staff's personal development plans. I work closely with my local college to deliver training to my employees, to ensure they are fully skilled to meet our needs and, most importantly, the parents' expectations. As recent research found, vocational qualifications are increasingly valued by those employers that take advantage of them, with 86% of companies agreeing that taking on staff with these qualifications leads to a stronger and more profitable business.

Alongside other areas, vocational qualifications have played an important part in maintaining the nursery's high standards from the very beginning. Not only do we upskill our staff through on-the-job training, we also use the Apprenticeship programme too. As we have found, students who join us through this route have a better experience of the working world, with a more mature attitude and stronger sense of motivation, than their peers who have left school. Currently we have four apprentices and six students from the local College, who supplement our day-to-day staff, enabling us to shape them to the culture of our nursery - it's important they have the right skills, not only to build a rapport with the children, but also with the parents in order for our reputation to grow.

It works for me because the College supplies a support package which allows me to get on with the day-to-day running of the business. The tutor sets all the work, tasks and deadlines and joins us for observations, allowing us to continue with our day to day jobs.

Having completed qualifications in this area, I've learnt about the value of improving and investing in your career. In fact, over half of small business owners (51%) have further education qualifications, with over two thirds (70%) of employers believing their experience of further education has positively impacted on their current career. I've worked with those who have vocational qualifications and I've seen the clear business benefits they bring. I encourage all my staff to seek relevant training opportunities as it's important they know we want them to flourish and develop on an ongoing basis.

If you're weighing up whether to invest in your staff's development this year, the experience I've had has cemented my belief that staff are more motivated when they know you are investing in their careers, ultimately improving your business' bottom line. By developing your team in this manner, perhaps through your local college or in-house training, they will continue to not only meet but exceed the expectations of you and your customers, whatever their age, resulting in a happy, successful and productive workplace.

If you're interested at looking further into further education, take a look at the National Careers Service website at Alternatively, to find out more about Apprenticeships visit, and to find out more about work-based learning visit

Linda Gibson runs the Juice Nursery in Cheshire and works with Trafford College to support her with her further education programme. She is supporting a new campaign to promote further education to employers.