Pitman Training, a leading provider of secretarial, executive PA, touch typing and bookkeeping courses, reveal that the Principal of their Notting Hill branch has contested claims that her students are only ‘posh girls’.
Tucked away in an office block in London’s Notting Hill, a crowd of confident young women and men sit at a bank of computers in a replica of an office environment, honing their skills en route to taking up well-paid, high-status careers as Executive PAs to top-ranking bosses.
Welcome to Pitman Training Notting Hill, a franchised training centre of one of the longest established office skills training organisations in Britain, and provider of the coveted Executive PA Diploma.
Fully-qualified PAs, or Personal Assistants as they are more commonly known, are the cream of the secretarial world; underpinning the administrative activities of senior managers and directors in both commercial and non-commercial organisations.
Taking an Executive PA course requires a significant investment of money and time on the part of the student, and this has given rise to claims that Pitman Training, at its Notting Hill location at least, is elitist and draws its student population from the wealthiest residents of the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
“Not a bit of it,” says Principal Shilpa Wymer. “Our students come from all walks of life and while we deliberately position ourselves as a school for people with high aspirations, we’re open to everyone.
“In fact, while you would have found a number of students here with connections to investment banking during the boom times, today you’re more likely to meet an ambitious barista or a double-shift waitress on our Executive PA course.
“Our goal is to be the destination of choice for anyone wanting to take an Executive PA course, and it is our job to give them the training to enable them to position themselves as worthy of taking the top jobs, whatever their background.”
The cost of training to be an Executive PA runs into thousands of pounds, and many of Shilpa’s students opt to pay a deposit to get started, paying for the balance of their studies monthly, over an extended period. Many need parental help to find the deposit or work extra shifts to cover the cost of getting started.
“To be fair, most of our students are everyday people who really put themselves out to get a high value qualification, rather than ‘posh girls’,” says Shilpa, “And let’s not forget our male students!”
Indeed, male PAs are also in demand and are expected to deliver the same high levels of skill as their female counterparts and will come from equally diverse backgrounds.
These skills include the ability to type with outstanding speed and accuracy, mastery of the Microsoft Office suite to expert level, and top level organisational skills.
PAs can also take a legal secretary course or medical secretarial training as part of their diploma, to allow them to follow careers in these specialist areas.