Q&A: Pete Fullard, MD of e-learning company Upskill People

The e-learning partner of the Co-operative College designs programmes to meet the needs of the co-op sector

When was Upskill People set up and why?

It all began in 1994. I wanted to do something different that would help people learn new skills in an engaging way. I’d been involved in the technology industry and I could see that there was real potential. If you could make learning easy and engaging it would be really powerful.

How did your collaboration with the co-operative sector begin?

We started working with co-op clients about a decade ago. The initial introduction came through a referral when one of the team from another retailer moved to Southern Co-op. Since then we’ve worked with a number of different co-ops in the food and funeral sectors.

Pete Fullard

We are the e-learning partner for the Co-operative College. With them, we develop and deliver e-learning programmes that are designed to meet the needs of different parts of the co-operative sector – from community shops, pubs and cafes to football clubs, worker co-ops and retail societies.

Today we work with organisations around the world. We launched Upskill People Asia last year, which is based in Singapore, and our platform is available in over 25 countries and languages.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of different types of learning styles?

We recognise that people learn in different ways. So our courses support different learning styles – everyone is an individual. Our courses are highly interactive and engaging; we measure that they actually deliver behaviour change, not just tick a box.

We’ve all been on training courses, which might have been brilliant, but then after a couple of weeks tried to recall what we’ve learnt and not had much success. Teams need to be trained at the point of need. This is where online learning really helps. Because it’s always available and ready to be used, people can quickly get upskilled.

Different types of co-ops have different needs. How can e-learning be tailored to respond to these individual needs?

We’ve developed a library of courses that are readily available. Some of these have been developed in partnership with co-ops. From a business perspective we understand the unique benefits and culture of co-operatives. This is reflected in our learning and also how we do business. Our courses range from giving great care to customers through sales and service, to the recruitment and retention of members. We also provide a range of courses to help people comply with legislative requirements. Our library now includes a great series of unique courses develop by the Co-operative College.

Every organisation has specific needs and one size doesn’t fit all, so we also work with the Co-operative College and other partners to tailor existing courses – and create new ones – to fulfil the requirements of different organisations.

Which co-ops have you worked with individually or via the College? Could you tell us more about these projects?

There are so many different projects. One example is a project for Radstock Co-op. We worked with them to actively increase sales through merchandising and reduce shrinkage and loss of fresh produce.

A current project is measuring management development impact with the Channel Islands Co-operative. The aim is to prove return on expectation and demonstrate that training delivers a measurable benefit. We link management skills and competencies to the organisation’s strategic themes. These in turn link directly to how they deliver their mission and values.

What are your plans for the future? Are you working on any new courses that co-ops could use?

What’s exciting is that co-ops can collaborate on different courses to deliver shared benefit. Also we’ll be launching a market place this year where co-operatives can buy into high-quality online learning courses for only a few pennies rather than pounds.

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