By Pam and Paul Martin of PM Training and Assessing Ltd

We are extremely proud and delighted to be the first winner of the best rural innovation award, sponsored by the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE), at the Rural Business Awards 2020/21.

To think what began as a daft idea has led to us being recognised as one of the top rural businesses in the UK is totally amazing.

It all started after Paul, who is a railway signal engineer by trade, was made redundant when Carillion collapsed in 2018 and he joined our business full-time.

We provide training and assessing for those working in the railway industry and we needed to think outside the box in order to make the business viable. As we live in rural mid Wales, which is too far for people to travel to, we needed a way of taking our training to our clients and we came up with the idea of converting an old bus into a mobile technical classroom.

We don’t mind travelling but we don’t want to move away from where we live, which I’m sure resonates with many rural business owners. Our story shows that it doesn’t matter if your business is in a rural area, you can still be innovative and adapt to changing, and challenging, circumstances to great effect.

Our bus simulates what happens on a working railway and has the equipment that a signal engineer would be required to test, maintain and install to keep trains running safely, in order for us to assess workers.

And safety is the heart of our business. Working with railway signals you can’t just press some buttons and hope it’ll be ok – it’s got to be right every single time. That’s why training is so important so employees can make mistakes and learn from them because they can’t do that in their jobs.

Paul was an apprentice working near Clapham Junction at the time of the rail crash in 1988 and we don’t want anything like that to happen again.


Enter the awards – you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain

Winning the best innovation award has been a massive boost to our business and it’s fantastic to be recognised for our perseverance. Thanks to the vast exposure we’ve had in the media and on social media we’ve been taken seriously by the large companies in the industry and have had many discussions with firms about how we can take training to their staff, so they don’t need to travel during the pandemic. 

But it’s also been an opportunity for us to re-evaluate and focus on what we need to do in order to keep evolving. 

We hope our story inspires other rural businesses to consider what they’re doing as innovative. We didn’t think we were at first but if you’re doing something different that makes you stand out from the rest, this is your platform to shout about it. We’d urge you to start your application straight away and submit by the closing date of 21 May. 

Find out more and enter the 2021/22 Rural Business Awards.

Find out more about PM Training and Assessing.

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