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News - Current

Happy Birthday Sir Isaac! Celebrate 170 years of time saving with Pitman Training


When Sir Isaac Pitman Training launched his revolutionary shorthand system his main aim was to enable users to save time, a goal which is still relevant today, almost 195 years since his birth.

In January 2008 the team at Pitman Training Group, which has its head office in Wetherby, will be remembering the 195th birthday of the innovative teacher who revolutionised the office environment. Pitman Training is now internationally recognised as a leading provider of specialist courses in computing, information technology and business skills as well as traditional shorthand and typing.

Born in Trowbridge on 4th January 1813, Sir Isaac originally trained and worked as a school teacher, before devoting his efforts to developing his system of phonography, which became known as shorthand. He launched it 170 years ago in 1837 and within a few years it had spread across the world.

Claire Lister, Managing Director of Pitman Training Group, is rightly proud of the company’s heritage: “Sir Isaac showed incredible levels of motivation and dedication, driven largely by the maxim that ‘to save time is to prolong life’. He wanted everyone to enjoy the benefits to be gained from using his system. We still strive to find ways of saving time, and the computers and information technology that are revolutionising our lives today are all aimed at achieving this goal,” she says.

Pitman Training worked tirelessly to perfect his system, experimenting in the construction of shorthand alphabets and going on to produce instruction manuals and procedures as well as teaching and lecturing on the subject. After publishing his shorthand system in 1837 he opened his first Phonetic Institute in Bath in 1839. 170 years later, there are more than 90 Pitman Training centres in the UK including those in Wetherby, Leeds and Sheffield.

“Pitman’s Training original teaching procedures were rigid and classroom based. But the method of learning offered by Pitman Training today is far more flexible, allowing students to work at their own pace and fit study around their existing work and family commitments. We provide audio training and workbooks, and tutors are always available to provide support and assistance,” says Claire.

“We help individuals reach their career goals, by providing essential, traditional office skills such as shorthand and typing as well as advanced IT qualifications and specialist secretarial qualifications. By doing so, we endeavour to build on Sir Isaac Pitman’s legacy,” she adds.

Pitman Training has a range of courses aimed at developing the skills of PAs, who as well as being experts on software and having exceptional organisational skills, are often expected to take on responsibility for areas such as HR, accounts and marketing. Most senior managers admit that they rely heavily on the contribution of their PA across a variety of business areas. In addition to short courses and seminars, Pitman Training offers longer term Diploma programmes designed especially for professional secretaries and PAs who wish to specialise in a particular area of business.

For more information on the range of Pitman Training courses please call 0208 600 2460 or click HERE to enquire.


Behind every great businessman (or woman) is a great PA


Research reveals what personal assistants really think

There are more than 650,000 professional PAs working in the UK, playing a key role in helping industry leaders to achieve their business objectives. On November 28th and 29th the Times Crème show opens in Manchester and thousands of senior secretaries and executive assistants will attend to network and gather information on best practice and career development.

But what goes on beneath the professional façade of these influential individuals? Research undertaken by Pitman Training has revealed what PAs really think – about themselves and their boss.

“The modern PA is far removed from the traditional office secretary of the past who was expected to ‘take a letter’ and remain in the background,” says Claire Lister, managing director of Pitman Training, the UK’s leading IT and office skills training company. “The responsibilities of today’s professional PA are wide-ranging and extremely demanding,” Claire continues. “From HR and marketing to accounts and event management – the majority of senior managers admit that they rely heavily on the contribution of their PA.”

But 60% of these seemingly cool-headed and unflappable individuals are not as confident as their professional personas would suggest. They admit that their confidence is ‘just an act” and that they are actually quite insecure. The survey, carried out amongst PAs at the Times Crème exhibition in London, also revealed that employers still have some work to do when it comes to staff training.

Confident and happy?

  • 60% of PAs aren’t as confident as they appear – they’re just good at putting on a show. A worrying 42% describe themselves as insecure and admit that their confidence is “all an act”.
  • 63% of PAs said they enjoy what they do and 21% said they LOVE their job. Only 15% said they’re not particularly happy/ready for a change and only one of the people we asked said they hated their job.

A close partnership?

  • 34% said they don’t think that their boss shows his/her appreciation enough. But 57% said their boss makes it very clear that they are valued.
  • PAs know everything! 32% said they know everything about their boss’ business AND personal life. 37% said they are privy to the most confidential business information although their boss keeps personal stuff separate.


  • When asked if they have all the right skills and training to do their job, 70% said that they want to keep learning. However 10% claimed that they have no gaps in their knowledge!!
  • One in five said that their company only spends money on training which is absolutely necessary for the organisation, such as health and safety. Personal development of staff is not really on the agenda.
  • However 62% have a personal development plan and attend courses on a regular basis. 16% said they have to undertake training in their own time and 2% said their employer places no importance on training at all.

“It was really interesting to find out that almost three quarters of the professional PAs we surveyed aren’t as confident as they appear to be,” says Claire. “Executive secretaries and assistants often have a reputation within an organisation as the scary gatekeeper; the person who knows most about what is really going on in an organisation. Our research shows that behind the professional persona, even the best of us has to work at looking confident. It was good to see that 62% of PAs we spoke to benefit from a personal training plan. However it is obvious from our research that many employers still place very little importance on development of their staff.”

Pitman Training offers a wide range of courses and Diplomas designed exclusively for the professional secretary or executive assistant. “Passing our Executive PA Diploma proves you're capable of delivering all the office skills an employer could expect - expert use of Microsoft Office, perfect touch typing, organisational skills and even shorthand,” explains Claire Lister. ‘Whether you are already working as a PA or aspiring to become one, this comprehensive programme is aimed at ambitious people who really want to make their mark at work. In addition to developing your skills as a personal assistant, you'll find your confidence grows as you find your ability to apply your knowledge at work develops every day.”

There are also Pitman Training Diplomas designed for secretaries who have decided to specialise in a specific field such as the legal or medical profession.


Skills boost brought new confidence to Lincoln


A former professional dancer who had never done a day's office work decided to take the plunge and return to work once her three children were at school.

Sally Hodder (40), of Welton, says: "I had lots of life skills but did not have a formal CV. I had no idea about what I wanted to do or, importantly, what I could do around the children."

After learning some basic computer skills at the Pitman Training Centre in Lincoln, Sally enrolled on a two-year part-time Legal Secretarial Diploma run by the centre.

"As well as the legal knowledge, the course taught me shorthand, speed typing and advance PC training which are very transferable skills," she says.

"But then I saw a job advertised in the Echo one Wednesday as a school photographer which really appealed. I did not have a good, up-to-date CV but the staff at Pitman Training helped me prepare one.

"And I still use some of the computer skills I learnt on the course but the greatest thing it gave me was confidence."