Bringing care into teaching and learning

Winning two awards at the Women in Business Awards 2022 was no accident for Norah Ryan, managing director of Barrow Training and Consultancy, highlighting the caring and empathetic ethos she brings to her work

Norah Ryan, managing director of Barrow Training and Consultancy (pictured holding the awards), and her team. Ryan won both the Excellence in Personal Services: Business and Female Entrepreneur of the Year awards at the Women in Business Awards 2022

To win one award is memorable enough, but two made the evening a truly special moment for Norah Ryan, managing director of Barrow Training and Consultancy.

At the Women in Business Awards 2022, she went home with the Excellence in Personal Services: Business and Female Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

A few days after the awards, Ryan was still taking it all in.

“I’m blown away, to be honest,” she said. “There was an incredible calibre of talent shortlisted and to be included in those was the greatest honour I could have asked for.

“The first award was the icing on the cake, but winning entrepreneur of the year . . . I was just blown away.”

Ryan has been working at Barrow Consultancy since 2015, but purchased the company from the original owners more than a year ago.

The organisation is one of the largest providers of blended learning courses accredited by QQI. It offers training in healthcare, childcare, hospitality, health and safety, special-needs assisting, and professional development.

She has high praise for her team of nine, whom she describes as “the most incredible, committed, hardworking group of ladies you could ever hope to work for”.

“They’re not just team members; I would consider them my friends,” she said. “We’ve a close-knit bond, which was evident on Friday night.”

It’s quite apparent from speaking to Ryan that she cares deeply about all aspects of the work, from the team to clients to every person who enters the door. Making sure people are cared for is a huge part of her ethos, which ripples through all parts of the business.

“That is my ethic,” she said. “I want them to walk into work every day and say I love going into my job and I know for a fact they do. I want them all to have a good experience; some have small children and they have total flexibility in their work.

“[As a result] none of my employees have childcare costs, which is very important to me.”

This ethos also expands into the business itself, where Barrow Training and Consultancy has won contracts with major clients. Some of its clients include KBC, the HSE, Teagasc, and the NHI and in the last 15 months, about 65 per cent of its business involves repeat business from individuals signing up to its online courses and blended learning contracts.

“One thing we always say is once we succeed in a contract and win a new client, we keep them,” she said. “Once we get them, we keep them, as they get the service they expect they should get.”

The ethos also applies to its tutors and learning philosophy. It has an extensive tutor database thanks to how it treats its people and learners.

As the company focuses on adult education, many people are returning to learning after many years and assuming it will be similar to school.

It’s why reassurance and caring are so important. In Ryan’s view, there’s no such thing as a stupid question, and if one has to be asked ten times, they’ll answer it ten times. It’s no accident that the organisation has a 100 per cent completion rate, as it puts time and effort into each student.

“They think it’s going to be the same experience as school, and we want to nurture them and assure them it’s not,” she explained.

“If they’re having difficulty with the assignment or understanding of the language, or any issues at all, we have all our experts to help, guide and reassure them.”

The future is a busy period for the organisation with many developments underway. One is that it’s in negotiations with four British universities to develop a pathway for a level 7 childcare degree; it will likely announce in early 2023 whom it’s partnering with. Ultimately it’s about creating a positive environment for everyone, which is crucial to Ryan.

“One of the ladies who started in Barrow six months before I arrived, said this year when she came back from holidays, it was the first time coming back where she didn’t mind going back to work,” said Ryan. “And that’s what I want to hear.”

For more information about Barrow Training and Consultancy, visit https://www.barrowtraining.ie/