A Unique Membership Organisation

Sustainability, Quality and Growth in the Employer-Led Skills Market

Working together across the UK, our members have a shared vision and are committed to acting as a collaborative ‘enabler’ for meaningful and sustainable skills and employment opportunities for all individuals.

We are comprised of some of the UK’s leading employers, training providers and awarding organisations, from across all sectors and levels of qualification, making us representative of the UK’s delivery infrastructure.

Meet our Members

Training Provider Employer EPAO
Darren Bance Profile Image

Darren Bance

Managing Director of Education Operations at QA

Laura Burley

Public Affairs Lead (Apprenticeship Ambassador) at The Open University

Sean Cosgrove Profile Image

Sean Cosgrove

Chief Operating Officer at Lifetime Training

Mark Creighton Profile Image

Mark Creighton

CEO of Avado Learning

Tracy Fairhurst Profile Image

Tracy Fairhurst

Head of Apprenticeships at Royal Mail

David Gallagher Profile Image

David Gallagher


Kirk Lower Profile Image

Kirk Lower

National Lead for Apprenticeships and Widening Participation at Health Education England, NHS

David Marsh Profile Image

David Marsh

CEO of Babington and Co-Chair of the St Martin’s Group

David Phillips Profile Image

David Phillips

Managing Director at City and Guilds UK

Kirsten Smith Profile Image

Kirsten Smith

Head of Apprenticeship Delivery at Network Rail

Ruth South Profile Image

Ruth South

Head of Early and Emerging Talent Programmes at Capgemini

James Swaffield Profile Image

James Swaffield

Director of Apprenticeships at Capita

Jenny Taylor Profile Image

Jenny Taylor

UK Graduate, Apprenticeship and Student Programme Leader at IBM

Lloyd Thomas Profile Image

Lloyd Thomas

Group Apprenticeship Academy Manager at Co-Op Group

Richard Turner Profile Image

Richard Turner

Head of Apprenticeships at BT and Co-Chair of the St Martin’s Group

Sean Williams Profile Image

Sean Williams

CEO of Corndel

Darren joined QA in January 2020 as Managing Director of Education Operations, where he works to ensure operational rigour and deliver excellence across the learning, consulting and apprenticeships service lines.

Darren is an experienced business leader with 20 years of proven track record success in large and medium scale organisations within both the private and public sectors across the UK and Middle East. Prior to joining QA, Darren was Executive Director of Learning Services at Capita, heading up the division overseeing learning and training businesses.

He holds a BSC in City and Regional Planning from the University of Wales and is a member of the Institute for Collaborative Working.

Laura Burley is The Open University’s Apprenticeships Ambassador, heading up the University’s external affairs for apprenticeships and skills. She is a passionate campaigner on the role education can play in transforming life chances.

Laura was previously the Head of Government and External Affairs at The Open University, joining in 2012 and playing a key role in promoting the positive benefits of part-time higher education, with numerous campaign and policy successes. Prior to joining The OU, Laura worked in government affairs advisory roles for organisations, such as Breast Cancer Care, British Dental Association and Insight Public Affairs.

Laura has also worked for the former Deputy Prime Minster, Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP and former Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Phil Willis MP. Laura was a founding advisory board member of ‘Women in Public Affairs’.

Sean joined Lifetime Training in 2016 and currently supports employer partners to create inclusive and impactful apprenticeship programmes, working across business development, partnership management, curriculum design, market development and customer experience.

Prior to Lifetime, Sean was Chief Operating Officer at the Australian Institute of Fitness, where he transformed the company’s sales and marketing strategy from a traditional media focus into a digital and social channels approach.

Sean has also held operational and managerial roles in a variety of fast-paced commercial businesses in the education, leisure and fitness sectors, including Fitness First Australia, BlueFit Leisure and South Pacific Health Club.

As CEO of Avado, Mark is responsible for developing its overarching business strategy to ensure the organisation’s current and future proposition meets the needs of both its customers and learners.

Prior to joining Avado in 2019, Mark spent 20 years in the media and advertising industry where he held senior leadership positions at specialist digital and media agencies, including i-Level, Mindshare and Dentsu Aegis Network.

His roles focussed on organisational transformation, determining how agencies could evolve to be more responsive and drive strategic growth. He holds a BA in Politics from the University of Durham.

Tracy is a commercially focused Learning Development and Talent professional with extensive experience in all aspects of early careers and learning development provision, including strategy development, full learning cycle and talent solutions.

She joined Royal Mail as a Senior Leadership Development Manager in 2016, and prior to that worked at Merseyside Police as Head of Professional Development. Tracy holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Human Studies from the University of Bradford and an EMBA from Lancaster University.

She is a qualified and experienced Executive Coach, specialising in leadership development, innovation and digital solutions, and sits on the Apprentice Council’s Advisory Panel.

David is Chief Executive Officer at NCFE, a leading not-for-profit provider of educational services and one of the UK’s biggest exam boards. He has enjoyed a successful career in employment and skills for more than 18 years, spanning frontline delivery in some of the most deprived communities in the country, to his current role as CEO of the NCFE. David is a Non Executive Board Member at the Federation of Awarding Bodies and Together for Children.

David’s diverse career has shaped his perspectives on education, skills and employment. His experience includes working in the public sector for the Learning and Skills Council (now ESFA) where he was heavily involved in qualification reform policy and the introduction of the QCF. He has also worked with several leading national employment and skills providers, including Working Links and Ingeus during periods of significant market shift such as the introduction of ‘payment by results’. Prior to joining NCFE, David was Group Commercial Director at Babington.

Kirk has held a number of workforce director positions within further education and the NHS, and now holds a national training and education role with Health Education England, where he leads the NHS strategy ‘Talent for Care’. He is the Chair of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s Route Panel for Health and Science (and Sport), where he has approved 90+ new standards and recommended funding bands to the Skills Minister. Kirk represents the NHS on Movement to Work (a network comprising the UK’s largest employers) and sits on the Advisory Board of the new Association of Apprentices.

He has served as Chair, Vice Chair and Finance Chair on school and college governing bodies and as the Chair/Director of a Citizens’ Advice Bureau. As a qualified teacher, Kirk previously led a specialist FE college for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities – funded by the Department for Education, delivered within the NHS and rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted. Kirk also helped found an Ofsted rated ‘Outstanding’ new sixth form college and assisted in its subsequent merger to create a regional post-16 institution. He is now a Governor at the college.

David has been CEO of Babington for 18 months and brings a wealth of experience to the role having previously been MD of Capita’s Apprenticeship and Training business, Head of Academies at British Gas and a Director in Babcock’s Education and Training business. In total, he has been immersed in the sector for nearly 10 years as both a provider and employer-provider. David was also a teacher prior to this.

During the past three years, David has chaired the Provider Reference Group for the ESFA, made up of a wide range of providers across FE, HE, EPAOs and the independent sector to act as a support mechanism to initially develop the new funding rules and ultimately make the levy and standards a success. He was also Chair of one of the early trailblazer groups to develop the Smart Meter Installer standard and sits on the Board of AELP. Babington is a founding member of The St Martin’s Group.

David is a Managing Director at City and Guilds Group, responsible for leading the City and Guilds and ILM brands. He also oversees the Group’s growing End of Point Assessment (EPA) business. David has spent the majority of his career in education, working in companies that serve and partner with schools, colleges and training providers including Pearson and RM.

He has extensive experience managing significant businesses employing up to 700 people and is skilled at creating and delivering corporate strategies by inspiring teams to execute a shared vision and deliver growth in revenue, market share and profitability. He is passionate about working in the education and training sector and helping others to develop and grow.

As Head of Apprenticeship Delivery at Network Rail, Kirsten is responsible for developing new programmes and helping widen access to careers in the rail industry. This involves overseeing Network Rail’s entire range of apprenticeship and graduate programmes, including its award-winning rail engineering technician apprenticeship scheme. She joined the company in 2019 as the National Training Manager in Wessex before progressing to her current role.

Prior to Network Rail, Kirsten gained extensive experience in her roles as Training Centre Manager at BK Labtech, The Hastings Engine Room, Director of Training at Dryad Maritime and in training and leadership roles with the Royal Navy. As an accomplished strategic leader, executive and training director, Kirsten is passionate about delivering change through effective, relevant and dynamic training.

Ruth joined Capgemini in 2008 and currently leads its UK Talent Programmes for early and emerging talent. Ruth drives Capgemini’s talent strategy for graduates and apprentices, creating opportunities to enable businesses to grow their leaders of the future, and building the skills needed to fill gaps within the digital and wider economy. She is passionate about continuous talent development and changing perceptions of apprenticeships.

James is an experienced senior leader with 20 years’ experience of driving change across all areas of a business, including digital transformation, operational excellence and efficiency, and restructures. He has delivered successful outcomes whilst leading large operational teams in roles, such as Operations Director at QA and Programme Manager at RM Results.

He holds an MBA from Warwick Business School, a BEng in Electronic Engineering and has completed Cranfield University’s General Management Programme. He has led teams through varied and challenging times including operational peaks, business growth, turnarounds, and Ofsted inspections.

Jenny is Leader of IBM UK’s multi-award winning Early Professional Programmes with responsibility for all aspects of the schemes, including recruitment, career management, development of education programmes and financial management.

Jenny was at the forefront of developing Degree Apprenticeships in 2015 and is Chair of the Digital and Technology Solutions Level 6 Trailblazer. She was leader of IBM’s Girls’​ Schools’​ and Dare2BDifferent outreach programmes which were recognised in the Opportunity Now Work Inspiration awards 2011 and 2014.

Jenny is currently Chair of the Digital Degree Apprenticeship Trailblazer. She is a member of the TechSkills Board and a Commissioner for the Princess Royal Training Awards. Jenny was a finalist in the Everywomen in Technology Inspiration of the Year award 2015 and was named Apprenticeship Champion of the Year 2020 in the National Apprenticeship Service awards.

Lloyd is an experienced training and development professional, who is passionate about the contribution that developing people and organisations can make to a business. He started his career in vocational learning 24 years ago in training provision, before moving into corporate talent and organisational effectiveness.

Lloyd has spent the past 10 years as Apprenticeship Partner at The Co-op and is passionate about food retailing. He previously worked with three leading retailers to integrate apprenticeships into their training and development offer.

Lloyd also chaired the Retail Trailblazer Group and currently chairs the Retail Quality and Skills Board. He is dedicated to championing the benefits of work-based learning and its power to add value to support the talent and skills agenda within any business. Lloyd is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Richard joined BT from Network Rail, where he was the company’s first ever dedicated Head of Apprenticeship Delivery and was responsible for overseeing Network Rail’s entire range of apprenticeship and graduate programmes, including its award-winning rail engineering technician apprenticeship scheme.

Prior to Network Rail, Richard oversaw training and development at Virgin Trains as well as its talent academy, based in Crewe. Richard started his career in the Royal Air Force as a commissioned officer, specialising in training, and later evaluating the readiness of Afghan National Security Forces with the US Marines.

Sean is the founder and Chief Executive at Corndel, an educational organisation that delivers specialist training and development in leadership and software engineering. Corndel specialises in using apprenticeship levy funding to provide world class training for new and existing staff, and last year partnered with the Department for Education alongside other leading education experts for The Skills Toolkit initiative.

Sean began his career in the employment support sector, working as a frontline Unemployment Advisor in Brent, London. Since then, he has worked in research, policy, business development and operational management for some of the UK’s largest and most successful public service providers including Serco and G4S.

Sean has designed and overseen large-scale public service contracts both across the UK and abroad, and managed businesses turning over in excess of £75 million. He holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge and is committed to delivering excellent vocational training that improves productivity, profitability, wages and progression.