I was commissioned by the Derby Evening Telegraph’s to write features on the winners of their annual business awards. As an ex reporter, it came fairly naturally.

Quantum Training Services

Business is hectic for Martin and Karen Bardoe, as the healthcare training company they started in a back bedroom 18 months ago outgrows its premises for the third time.

Former care home matron Karen started training her own staff in frustration at the courses offered by other companies, and when friends at other homes asked her to help, she realised she’d found a niche in the market. Five months later, she was working full time as trainer.

“When I first started, it was just me and a friend and we called ourselves ‘Two Blondes and a Projector’, but as we got more and more work, we realised we ought to call ourselves something more serious, so Quantum Training was born,” said Karen. “It really was a quantum leap for us.”

Husband Martin, a former marketing director at furniture warehouse Queensway, joined the board, together with Susan Stride (the other original blonde with a projector) and Gracious Duba, a nurse lecturer Karen had met teaching at the University of Derby.

Now the company employs eleven people full time, with 14 other lecturers and assessors brought in for their specialist roles, and is looking forward to a £350,000 turnover this year.

“Most of the staff are what you might call ‘mature’,” said Martin. “It’s not been a particular policy but we’ve found that they have the experience and the right approach for what we want to do.”

The core of the business focuses on training overseas nurses to meet UK requirements.

“We cover the mandatory basics like moving patients, health and safety, food hygiene, first aid, and infection control. The nurses spend a couple of weeks on those, then go on placements with care homes all over the country,” said Martin.

“We have different procedures in this country. In places like India, they don’t have these because machines are expensive but labour is cheap, so if they want a patient moving they have people called ‘shifters’. So we have to make sure that nurses know how to lift patients safely, for instance.”

Most training companies charge by the visit to care homes, so the homes have problems taking as many staff as possible out of work to cut the training costs for the session per head. Quantum runs rolling sessions in house with a flat fee so the timetable can be arranged round shifts.

Nurses can follow up the in-house sessions with further training during placements at care homes, and Quantum supply them with laptops so they can learn vital IT skills.

Karen said: “We’re the only training company in the field that offers that bit extra. Some of these students come from quite rural areas and haven’t used a computer before, so when even though they have the qualifications to work they won’t be competitive if they can’t use a computer.

The company’s already diversifying.

Martin said: “One of the lessons we’ve learnt from experience in other companies is not to have all your eggs in one basket, and we’re determined never to have that happen to us. But we’ve made sure we’ve got each area right before we move on to the next.”

It’s a strategy that has taken the company from the back bedroom to a commercial office on Ashbourne Road in Derby, to training premises in the city centre in under two years.

Quantum has taken on an NVQ specialist, looking forward to the planned introduction of vocational qualifications as part of the school curriculum. And that expertise can be used across a wider range of sectors – Quantum has won the contract to training catering, retailing, and other staff when Derby’s new Westfield centre opens.

The NVQ accreditation allows Quantum to launch a college, which find a home at its Ashbourne Road offices later in the year.

It has also been approached to set up and run training for nurses in Pakistan.

Karen said: “It’s a huge undertaking and very much in the early stages at the moment. We’re going over to Pakistan to really start to size up what it will involve.”

The future will need careful planning as the company hits the big league and starts to  compete on an international level, but it is determined to keep to the approach which has proved successful so far.

“I’m still a nurse as well as running a business,” said Karen. “We want to make sure our training means that the patients are looked after properly.”

Martin added: “We’ve got all these extra people now – a great team with lots of experience –  and we still seem to be working just as hard, but it’s important to keep moving forward. It’s exciting and we enjoy it because it’s our company. It sounds like a cliché but it’s true, that every day’s a challenge.”