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New Directions Manager Shortlisted for Investors in People (IIP) Award

Kelly Storer, Regional Sales Manager for Cardiff-based business New Directions has been named as a leader in people management practice globally, having been shortlisted in the Manager of the Year category in the second annual Investors in People Awards.

The Awards, which received over 400 entries internationally, celebrates the best people management practices amongst Investors in People accredited businesses. Winners are announced at a spectacular awards ceremony and dinner at Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, the Tower of London, on 24th June 2015. Finalists represent the best of the best worldwide.

Kelly was shortlisted for her particular achievements managing the South Wales region of the business, looking after a complement of around 50 staff.

The 15 Awards categories recognise the accredited organisations that have achieved the highest standards. There are a range of Awards categories, focusing on the main elements of what it means to be an Investor in People, from Excellence in Leadership and Management to Excellence in Social Responsibility to Leader of the Year and Best Newcomer. The Awards provide the opportunity to benchmark against high performing organisations globally.

Sophie Cecil, Group HR Director for the New Directions said ‘It is a privilege to be shortlisted for this award; a clear indication of the dedication and hard work the team has invested in the business. We are delighted to see Kelly shortlisted for Manager of the Year. This is testament to both her as a manager and the wider community within our business. As an organisation we are committed to developing managers as the future leaders, and this acknowledgement from IIP will inspire others to follow in her footsteps. Our culture is one that fosters reward and recognition, to see this acknowledged is such an achievement and an honour for our business’.

Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People, said: ‘Once again we have been overwhelmed by the number and calibre of entries received for the Investors in People Awards. It’s fantastic to see so many organisations nominated for outperforming in their sector, demonstrating great people management practice and a commitment to staff development’.

Investors in People is the leading accreditation for business improvement through people management, and provides a wealth of resources for businesses to innovate, improve and grow, with a focus on good people making great business.

Tickets to the awards ceremony will be publically available from Monday 23 March at

For the full shortlist and more information about Investors in People please visit

Melissa Brake, Administrator completes apprenticeship programme

As National Apprenticeship Week comes to an end, our final interview of the week comes from another employee who has completed their apprenticeship programme with New Directions.

Melissa Brake, 20, works as an administrator for our Care and Support team in the Bryn Mawr office. She has worked at New Directions for 2 1/2 years and recently completed her apprenticeship in Business and Administration, Level 2.

How has the apprenticeship programme helped you progress your career?

I came to New Directions straight out of school with no experience in a working environment. Being on an apprenticeship programme helped a great deal with my confidence and as the programme went on I took on more and more responsibility.

How do you feel this has benefitted you compared to going down a traditional study route?

I was placed on a 6 week work experience placement at New Directions after leaving school at 18. After the placement, I was put on an apprenticeship and was lucky enough to be taken on permanently. Working in the field of the qualification I was undertaking gave me the chance to experience everything I was learning about.

Has the apprenticeship opened doors to other qualifications?

Yes, I’m currently undertaking my Level 3 in Business and Administration which I hope to complete this year.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship to others and if so, why?

Yes, definitely! I think it is a fantastic opportunity. Apprenticeships are a great way to ease you into a new environment or a new career. It helps you adjust to a working environment and gain a qualification at the same time.

What was the biggest learning curve for you in becoming an apprentice for New Directions?

Adjusting to a working environment was a challenge because it was completely new to me. I didn’t have any confidence at the start of my placement but having the support through my apprenticeship helped a lot!

How long did it take you to complete the apprenticeship?

It took me just over a year to complete my apprenticeship

What advice would you give to other young people looking for career options post 16?

Work experience placements and volunteering can help massively! It shows willing and helps to build confidence. A voluntary placement can be a foot in the door and can lead to a lot more opportunities.

Melissa completes apprenticeship in Business Administration

Melissa Hale, 20, has worked for New Directions as an HR Administrator since September 2012. Since joining the company she has completed an apprenticeship in Business Administration, Level 2 and talks to us about how completing an apprenticeship has helped progress her career in Human Resources.

Melissa, how has the apprenticeship programme helped you progress your career?

Completing my Business Administration apprenticeship has given me more confidence which has allowed me to take on additional responsibility beyond my job role.

How do you feel the apprenticeship benefitted you compared to going down a traditional study route?

I didn’t want to go to university, I wanted to start earning and not get myself into debt. The apprenticeship programme is a great way to gain experience in your chosen career path as well as gaining a qualification.

Has this opened doors to other qualifications?

Yes, I am currently studying for my Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Level 3 which I am due to finish in September.

What was the biggest learning curve for you in becoming an apprentice for New Directions?

This was my first office based job; therefore working in an office environment was probably the biggest learning curve for me.

How long did it take you to complete the apprenticeship?

It took around 1 year to complete.

What advice would you give to other people looking for career options post 16?

I would advise if you aren’t sure what you want to do then try an apprenticeship, it gives you a taster of your future career. I have loads of friends who have finished university and then can’t get a job in the area they have studied in as they don’t have enough experience; an apprenticeship gives you the experience whilst learning.

Rachel tells us why she chose to go down the apprenticeship route…

This week is National Apprenticeship Week. In June 2014, New Directions employed Rachel Pearce, 24, as a Trainee Compliance Administrator who is currently completing an NVQ in Business Administration and an apprenticeship in Compliance Administration.

Rachel tells us why she chose to go down the apprenticeship route…

1) How did you hear about the Apprenticeship programme?

I heard about the opportunity to become a Trainee Compliance Administrator at New Directions from a friend who was working here at the time. She told me about the role and the apprenticeship scheme and I felt it would be something I enjoy and would give me a structured career path.

2) What will be the outcome for you at the end of the programme?

The NVQ will take me 18 months to complete and then an additional year to complete the apprenticeship. Following that I will be a fully compliant administrator and will continue my career path with New Directions.

3) How is the Apprenticeship programme different to traditional post 16 education?

I actually went down the BTEC route and then went onto university after my GCSE’s so I did the traditional route as well as now completing an apprenticeship programme. It is very different as you have to fit it in around full time work, however it’s a lot more structured and you are gaining valuable experience whilst getting paid.

4) How have you fitted in as part of the New Directions team?

I have been here around 9 months now and I am really enjoying it, everyone is really friendly.

5) Would you recommend an Apprenticeship to others and if so, why?

I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship programme to anyone. You get to live the job you are training for without getting in to debt! I had never worked in an office before working here so it gives you the experience, skills and confidence, as well as gaining experience in your chosen career. New Directions are really good at training and developing their staff so I know I have made a good choice working here.

6) What has been the biggest learning curve for you in becoming an Apprentice for New Directions?

As I had never had an office based job before, the change of setting was probably the biggest learning curve, as well as developing my professional online communication and telephone skills.

7) What advice would you give to other young people looking for career options post 16?

Evaluate all your options other than university. I enjoyed my university degree; however it hasn’t influenced what I am doing now. With an apprenticeship you can gain experience alongside training and make sure it’s the career you want to pursue. After graduating there weren’t any jobs in the area I had studied in, looking back I probably wouldn’t have gone down a degree route.

New Directions Celebrates World Book Day 2015

On 5th March 2015, the New Directions group of companies joined schools, colleges and thousands of other organisations to celebrate World Book Day. Teams from across the UK got involved in dressing up, writing reviews of their favourite books and visiting schools in their areas to help them celebrate the occasion.

The annual event celebrates all things literary and encourages children across the globe to pick up a book and get reading!

Speaking about their participation in the events of the day, Howard Burge, National Director for New Directions Education said ‘this is a wonderful initiative for school children across the globe. With the introduction of so much technology, we often forget how wonderful it can be to let our imagination get lost in a book. Taking time out to read, on your own, or with your children is such a special thing to do. The participation of teams from across our business highlights just how many book worms we have on board. Of course, if there is an opportunity to come to work in fancy dress – there aren’t many in our business who would turn it down’.

Staff from across the business were invited to submit a review about their favourite book. Take a look at the responses here:

My favourite book is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I first read it when I was on holiday in Cornwall aged 13, I was instantly hooked! I have re-read it several times since that holiday, and continue to find new angles to the story. What I love about the book is its setting in a big country house called Manderley on the Cornish coast, and the strong dominant characters of Maxim de Winter, the late Rebecca and the sinister Mrs Danvers. Most of all, I empathise with the naïve and nameless main character, who narrates the story, and how she deals with all the dark secrets that Manderley has been hiding!

Angharad Evans, Project Co-ordinator, New Directions Holdings

Where the Wild Things Are – Scares the hell out of the boys in my house, but I love it!

Sophie Cecil, Group HR Director, New Directions Holdings

One of my favourite books is a ‘A thousand splendid suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. I found it for the first time in 2009 having taken it from a ‘book swap’ in a hostel, and I read it over a couple days during a ridiculously long and boring drive across the Nullarbor (while I wasn’t driving). The relationship between the two main characters in the book; Mariam and Leila is beautiful, and the book depicts vividly what it’s like as a woman in a violent marriage under a regime which is hugely oppressive. The book has one of the best, but also the saddest endings of any book I’ve read.

Catherine Duddridge, HR Officer, New Directions Holdings

My favourite book is Jodi Picoult My Sisters Keeper, Jodi is actually my favourite author and I have read every book published.
My Sisters Keeper however holds a special place in my heart as firstly it was my introduction to the author and secondly every time I read it I come up with a different answer for the moral dilemma that is the outline of the story. I particularly enjoy that the story as is written from a number of different viewpoints and provokes you to put yourself in a different mindset and really look at different angles of the story and the impact that the same issue can have on different people. It also raises questions from a medical ethic perspective and encourages you to look at the grey and understand one size doesn’t always fit all. My favourite character is obviously Anna she is a true hero and the way that Jodi projects her as a character is amazing.

Kirsty Knowles, Senior Sales Consultant, New Directions Social Care

My favourite book is A Million Little Pieces by James Frey which chronicles a man’s desperate attempt to claw himself out of the negative cycle of substance abuse whilst being treated at a rehabilitation facility. It is based loosely on the writers own experiences in this field and it is a visceral, dark, brutal and honest account of the very real and tragic struggle people face when attempting to make that return from the brink. The character development is incredible and the writer draws you in to the point that you feel as if you are on this journey with him, sitting on his bleak hospital bed, sweating out the withdrawal with him. Although it may not sound like the most uplifting read, it really is. It proves that no matter what we put our minds and bodies through, if we really want to, we can make it through anything and come out clean the other side!

Katy London-James, Recruitment Co-ordinator, New Directions Education

Dangerous lady – Martina Cole – The story of a family of West End gangsters of Irish descent in 1960s post-war London. I love Martina Cole as an author but this particular book literally takes hold of you from the moment you pick it up. It’s very realistic and the you almost feel that you are part of it. Highly recommended!

Vicky Paul, Sales Consultant, New Directions Social Care

My favourite book is Timeline by Michael Crichton

Timeline is a science fiction novel by Michael Crichton that was published in November 1999. It tells the story of a group of history students who travel to 14th Century France to rescue their professor. The book follows in Crichton’s long history of combining technical details and action in his books, addressing quantum and multiverse theory.
My love of this book sits around my fascination with quantum physics and the theory of the universe. The book was one that I, for the first time, could not put down. Even though I read this some ten years back the book still gets my bookworm juices flowing and I have read it more than a dozen time during these ten years. The way Michael writes based on facts researched then expertly turning the research into near fiction, but with a strong slant to real possibilities is second to none. An outstanding book, that meets with my technological interests, and fascination with the unknown.

Alan Verallo, Commercial Training Manager, New Directions Training

My favourite book is a called ‘The Fib’ written by George Layton. I was first introduced to the book by my Year 6 Primary teacher, Mr Saunders. He would read it in assembly and literally the whole school would be captivated. The book has a range of short stories about a young boy growing up and dealing with various childhood issues. It is narrated by the boy himself and the language used make it easy for children to relate to him.

My favourite story is the balaclava story, “Tony and Barry both had one. I reckon half the kids in our class had one. But I didn’t. My mum wouldn’t even listen to me. ‘You’re not having a balaclava! What do you want a balaclava for in the middle of summer?’ I must’ve told her about ten times why I wanted a balaclava. ‘I want one so’s I can join the Balaclava Boys . ..’”
My Mum, knowing how much I loved the book, bought me my own copy and I have treasured it ever since. It is a little worn now, but that to me is a sign of a great book and shows how much it has been enjoyed over the years. I may be old fashioned but I much prefer the smell and feel of an old book than using a kindle. I now have children of my own and plan to pass it on to them, I am hoping they will love it as much as me!

Rhian Vernall, Interim Trainee Branch Manager, Cardiff Secondary

My favourite book of all time is Alex Hayley – Roots. The book tells the story of an African American searching his family tree. The story takes you from Africa to the present. The book describes what life was like for a young boy taken from his home in Africa to slavery in America.
The book displays what cruelty a man can do to another man all because of his colour. This book is a must read to understand what cruelty man can do and what slavery is like.

Mary McQuire, Senior Receptionist, Cardiff

One of my favourite books is The Bridge by Iain Banks.

I picked it up, on a whim, from a small bookshop in Cornwall and wasn’t able to put it down for days. The book deals with three characters. Namely, John Orr -an amnesiac living in a totalitarian bridge-like city, Alex – an embittered geologist living in Edinburgh and a Barbarian – an id-sh warrior who works his way through parodied versions of Greek myth and fairy tale, resulting in reflection on his deathbed.

What I find fascinating about the book is Banks’ off-beat style of writing; how he uses it as a device to the explore complexity of the human subconscious whilst fabricating a world of both light and dark that immerses the reader completely. It’s a gripping read!

Lucia Jones, Training Administrator, Cardiff

I love reading, particularly to learn. Whilst I like fiction, the vast majority of my bookshelf is based on true crime and psychology! My favourite book is “The man who mistook his wife for a hat” by Oliver Sacks. It is a fascinating account of a clinical neurologist’s experience with some of his patients who have neurological brain deficits leading to extraordinary phenomena. For example, the case of the patient in the book title suffering from visual agnosia; the inability to recognise objects when there is no impairment to vision. Sacks is able to engage the reader with humour which I love – learning should be fun not a chore. I have to thank the author of this book as it sparked my interest in Psychology and influenced by decision to do a Psychology degree. The human brain is simply fascinating!

Leah Seltzer, Group Head of Compliance, Cardiff

Having recently had a little boy who is now 14 months old, I have to say my favourite book is currently his favourite book as the fun we have reading it deserves a paragraph for world book day. It’s a book by Fiona Watt and is called ‘That’s not my Santa’ – recently bought as a Christmas present in case you hadn’t guessed. It is a brilliant interactive book which involves opening cardboard cut outs to reveal presents that Santa has bought, only to reveal the best present at the book finale of a cat! As a huge cat lover this ticked all my boxes with an added bonus of fur textures for extra interactive play! My little boy always digs this book out of his toy box so it’s an all-round winner in our household!

Jen Morrison, Account Manager, Wirral

An all time favourite of mine is a book by Graham Masterton called Mirrors. The concept of this story is simple, but the reality of it is a lot more sinister. The story begins with a haunted mirror being brought out of storage and placed on the floor in an apartment. A curious cat decides to watch its reflection and is subsequently pulled into the mirror and becomes trapped on the other side. Following this, a young boy suffers the same fate and becomes trapped in the reflective world, but his reflective self comes through bringing with him a few other entities to wreak havoc on the world. The story is intense and gripping and I would recommend it to any horror fan as an introduction to Graham Masterton and his wonderful world of terror and surrealism.

Dave Aslaksen, Recruitment Consultant, Wirral

I think it’s difficult to mention just one book as my favourite, but I think a sign of a good book is one which lingers in your thoughts long after you have read it. For me, the first book which really stuck with me was “Of Mice and Men”. I loved the storyline and the ending lingered with me for ages. Another favourite book would be “Misery” by Stephen King, you feel so involved in the story that you’ll find it difficult to put it down. It’s one book you won’t forget in a hurry or the name “Annie Wilkes”

Mudasser Ahmed, Recruitment Consultant, Manchester

Louise Welsh is a relatively new author in terms of post-modern literature, but she absolutely excels in what she delivers. The Cutting Room is a wonderfully dark book which seems to almost accidentally explore seemingly still taboo subjects in modern day Glasgow. I believe the book won awards as her debut novel, deservedly so. It was absolutely compelling reading. Dealing with a potential crime from the 1950’s, the main protagonist in the book goes on a wonderful journey of discovery to find the solution. It combines everything I love in crime, fiction, underworld and often difficult to read literature.

Ruth Dalton, Group Head of Communications, New Directions Holdings

Carolyn Pearse, Group Communications Officer talks about one of her favourite books, One Day by David Nicholls…

I instantly loved this book. Each chapter follows the lives of Dexter and Emma on 15th July for 20 years. Predominantly a love story, this book will certainly stir up a number of emotions. I didn’t want the book to end and even missed the characters once it had ended!

They made a film based on this book in 2011, however as always the book is so much better – definitely worth a read!

Carolyn Pearse, Group Communications Officer, Cardiff

I love books and it’s a pleasure to write a little review; it was really hard to pick my favourite book as I have so many! One of my first jobs was in a bookshop where I was the Children’s buyer! The book I have chosen to review is the one I have read most recently; Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan; it’s a wonderful girlie read about Cassie who marries her first serious boyfriend and who ten years’ later finds her marriage in tatters and with no career of her own, she starts to ask life questions such as ‘where does she belong in the world?’ And who is she – really?! So she leaves her home in Scotland (sheltered, rural part) and begins a yearlong adventure in three glamorous cities; New York, Paris and London to try them for size (and ultimately find the man of her dreams!) I couldn’t put the book down and can only dream of the Christmas at Tiffany’s that she experienced! Isn’t that what books do – let you dream…… dream away with this one – I did!

Victoria Deane, Group HR Manager

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