Twentieth anniversary portraits: Neill Ovenden, Operations Director

01 Jul 2024

Neill Ovenden has been working at LCL Awards for five years now. He joined as an External Verifier in January 2019 and was promoted to the role of Operations Manager just three months later. 

Last April he became our Operations Director. We’ve been looking back over our twenty years in business and spoke to Neill, who has become a key member of staff at LCL Awards, about his role at the company and the opportunities and challenges that have faced us over the last few years. 

“It may sound strange, but COVID allowed us to make a significant culture change in the business, which has been of great benefit to us. When face-to-face meetings were banned during the lockdowns, we quickly needed to develop a new strategy that would let us audit our centres remotely. 

“We did this and found, to our surprise that we and the majority of centres preferred to work this way. For one thing, it can save a lot of “in person” time. A physical audit that previously took a whole day on-site could be reduced to around just two hours with a Teams meeting - when combined with a desktop review of other information prior to the audit. It’s much more efficient for the centre, although the overall audit duration for one of the External Verifiers remains similar. 

“Nowadays we operate a more blended approach to auditing, combining on-site and Teams as appropriate to ensure the audit process is robust whilst not being burdensome. Having said that, if centres need an in-person EV visit, we’ll set this up for them. There’s always someone available to answer a question, whatever it is.

“We’ve significantly reduced the amount of physical paperwork we deal with. We’ve set up new electronic systems which we are encouraging our centres to use in preference to the paper-based forms they’ve used in the past. Most centres are supportive of this change, but for those who prefer pen and paper, we’re happy to oblige! We respect the variety and character of all our approved centres and do all we can to make them feel comfortable, whilst ensuring our standards are upheld.

“In the last decade, technology has become a significant part of the business. New software we’ve been developing gives us much greater access to the information we need to run the business efficiently. We can now share records and results instantly. This brings with it challenges of online security, however as a business we have gone through the Cyber Essentials certification for the past two years, and as our partners roll out new security measures (two factor authentication for example) we will adopt this as soon as practically possible. We’re also updating our online exams software with a new programme which utilises cloud-based storage.

“It's exciting to be working for a company that is open to change and development. We operate a culture here where anyone can come to senior staff with an idea and if we like it, we’ll run with it. Businesses need to be adaptable these days and we work well together. There’s a great deal of trust. We are all focussed on helping our centres maximise the experience they can offer their learners. 

“I owned and ran a training centre with my father for ten years, until he was looking to retire in around 2018, so I know what it’s like to run a private training facility and appreciate the challenges our centres face day-to-day. Back then, I loved following the progression of our candidates and seeing how their careers developed and now, although I have far less direct contact with the learners themselves, I still play a part – helping the centres to do all they can to improve the learning experience they provide. That’s one of the most satisfying parts of my job. 

“It's great to be working at LCL Awards during the year of their twentieth anniversary. It’s a first-rate business, offering a great service and I’m glad to be playing a part in shaping it for the future.”