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Training and development Cats, cues and confidence Training has a been a lifeline for many parking professionals over the past year. As well as broadening their knowledge, online sessions have offered a welcome opportunity to connect with others during times of limited socialisation. But what was it like for those running the training? Louise Parfitt finds out e can still make it fun, even if we are talking about parking enforcement, says Tara Gabriel, one of Alpha Parkings senior trainers. Weve had snoring dogs, demanding cats and inquisitive children in the sessions. We just go with it and have a good time. Gabriel is an experienced trainer she has been working for Alpha since 2005 and has a friendly, confident manner. Even so, last years move to virtual courses took her out of her comfort zone, and she had to adapt her approach. Im more conscious about my mannerisms, and we have to use more visual cues to engage people over a screen, she explains. As the Alpha teams knowledge of online platforms has W grown, so too has its use of tools such as breakout rooms and whiteboards. It has also branched out from its initial offering of notice processing and CEO City and Guilds courses to offering more bespoke courses, such as on traffic regulation orders, and for supervisors and team leaders. It was a bit challenging in the beginning, but it was also exciting to be able to offer something different and support people in what has been a difficult time, Gabriel says. It was a bit challenging in the beginning, but it was also exciting to be able to offer something different and support people in Creating connections As well as knowledge sharing, the sessions facilitate networking opportunities. Being online allows us to bring together teams from different places, Gabriel says. Training is not just about explaining new things to people; it is also about confirming that what theyre doing is right, and giving them ideas about things they can change. Having that opportunity to consider other parking teams policies and procedures, or how they have dealt with certain situations, is all part of it. She says one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in the beginning was peoples preconceptions around the value of virtual training, and anxieties over using the technology. As we have all now adapted to a more digital world, these perceptions and worries have fizzled out. Seeing peoples confidence grow in using the technology has been an unexpected benefit, says Gabriel. Hearing them say that, as well as the things they have learned that can be applied directly to their job, that they also now feel more competent to do a Zoom call with their grandad is just amazing. Adapting under pressure Spring 2020 is a period that Alphas director Penny Winder describes as shattering. The company, like so many others, saw its appointment books go from full to almost empty within 48 hours. Training is probably around 30 per cent of our turnover. Its been key to keep it going not only for us, but also for our clients and their staff, says Winder. She admits it felt a bit daunting in the beginning, but she is very proud of her team for how it has adapted. Weve held just under 100 courses for around 60 clients, she says. For teams that are spread over a wide geographical area, or only have one or two people attending, then virtual training has an advantage. But sometimes you cant beat face-toface, human contact, so well be offering a mix of the two in the future. 38 britishparking.co.uk PN June 2021 pp38-39 Alpha.indd 38 21/05/2021 11:44 2460