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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Brathay Trust inspires youngsters and CEOs alike

Brathay Trust on the north shore of Windermere has worked with challenging youngsters for 60 years - funding its work by providing team building sessions for some of the UK's top businesses.

SOME of the UK’s best apprentices are working on a timed problem solving puzzle on the lawn in front of Brathay Hall, near Ambleside, as Dave Otter, the trust’s head of training and development, looks on.

Other teams are suspended on the high ropes course, just a short distance away – trying to fathom out how trust and teamwork will help them negotiate the ‘High V’.

But while these young people, competing to win the Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2013, are using the facilities now, tomorrow it could be senior management teams from any number of multi-national companies operating in the UK.

Mr Otter, the former head of training and development at Peel Airports, explained: “Toyota, John Lewis, Balfour Beatty, DHL, Waitrose, JCB and Unilever are just some of the 100 regular users of this type of training ay Brathay.

“Today it is apprentices, tomorrow young people who have become disengaged from their communities and the following day the chief executive of a big firm and their staff.

“This type of learning benefits everyone – we use the outdoors as a metaphor for the workplace or school and we make sure, through questions and discussion afterwards, that everyone is clear about what they can take away from it and apply in their own work environment.”

With big corporations reaping the benefits of staff training at Brathay, the trust itself is able to use the funds generated from its commercial arm to bolster grants for youth projects across the country.

So specialised has the organisation become in this line of work, that it now has satellite bases in London, the West Midlands and throughout the North West.

The theory behind the courses remains the same – that experiential learning is often the key to unlocking education where the traditional classroom method fails.

Research by Brathay has found that its programmes to help young people re-engage with learning lead to increased school attendance of more than 70 per cent.

And it claims the investment made in each member of staff attending professional development courses will be recovered in increased productivity and motivation.

Mr Otter, who joined the trust two years ago after sending his own staff on courses at Brathay Hall, said the message to both young people and corporate employees was that everyone has the potential to learn but that some of the most effective ways of doing so are often non-traditional.

“The types of activities we do encourage people to try new ideas, encourage others, become a leader in a safe environment – it’s learning in a more impactful way and the results we see, and the feedback we get from businesses, is that it produces more effective working.

“To any business, the people are its biggest asset and the more you put into them, the more you will get out,” he added.

Central to the effectiveness of Brathay is its extraordinary staff which number 90 across the country.

Most are outdoor enthusiasts with a passion for using their skills to help and mentor others, Mark Bushell, Brathay spokesman claimed.

But the special Lake District landscape is also key to helping bring out the best in those who attend courses at the Ambleside HQ.

“This is a house that has entertained artists like Keats, Coleridge and Constable as well as Wordsworth,” Mr Bushell said.

“The same thing that inspired them also inspires others who come here today.”

An added attraction for businesses regularly using Brathay to enhance its employees is having input into how the money generated from their course fees is used.

London transport company Metroline, a regular Brathay client, chose to fund youth work in Boreham Wood – a district in the capital in which its drivers were the victim of anti-social behaviour following the riots of 2010.

Brathay duly sent out consultants to work with disaffected teenagers in the area.

Mr Otter said: “This is a good example of an organisation benefitting in a number of ways from the professional development work it bought in for its staff.

“The project was very successful and its something we are doing more of.”

The Brathay Trust turned over £4m pounds last year – with all but the running costs of the organisation being ploughed back into its charitable projects.

It is now running pilot schemes mentoring former soldiers as they adapt to civilian life as well as having a presence in schools located in less privileged areas.

Mr Otter said: “All the profits we make go into supporting work with children and young people but everyone benefits, whether they are here on a corporate course or being given the chance to change the course of their lives.”

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