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

Viren Patel

Director of Business Development Unit 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

CEO of NCFE

Jane Hadfield

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

Hannah Connors

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

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

Brenda McLeish OBE

CEO of Learning Curve Group

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.

Viren started his career in accountancy before moving into the commercial world 20 years ago. He has worked across diverse sectors including education, telecommunications, healthcare and retail and joined The Open University in 2015. Now in his role as Director of the Business Development Unit, Viren manages the OU’s commercial activity portfolio which includes working with employers and  educational partners both within the UK and Internationally, as well as identifying new potential income diversification opportunities.  

For over 50 years, The Open University has led the way in innovative distance-learning and has a proven track record and rich heritage of providing workplace education solutions for employers across a range of sectors, which help employees fulfil their potential.

The Open University’s flexible and adaptable approach enables consistent educational programmes to be delivered at scale, across geographically dispersed workforces. Through minimising the time needed in the classroom, The Open University’s blended delivery model is shaped around the needs of the employer and the role and responsibilities of the learner. This gives employees new skills and knowledge they can apply immediately to the workplace – increasing engagement and maximising return on investment.

During Viren’s time at the OU, the OU has launched higher and degree apprenticeship programmes in healthcare, social work, policing, systems thinking, digital management and leadership. The OU also offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, vocational qualifications, microcredentials, short courses and free learning and now works with more than 2,800 organisations across a wide range of sectors.

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.

Jane is a Registered Nurse, and Executive Coach and Organisation Development Specialist, with broad experience in clinical and corporate senior leadership roles in the NHS. Her interests and experience include influence and experience in schools and post 16 skills and education; workplace learning and education; education progression pathways; coaching and leadership development; job creation and career development; vocational training and Apprenticeships; Chair of a number of development groups for apprenticeships (Trailblazers), and T Level Health Employer Panel Chair.  (Technical Education reforms, Department of Education).

Janes current Role with HEE is National Lead for Apprenticeships and Senior Programme Manager for Talent for Care, with responsibility for supporting and overseeing implementation of new apprenticeship standards with Employers in the Trailblazer system.

Jane has worked for the majority of her career in the NHS in Bristol, and now holds a national role in the NHS, managing the introduction of the apprenticeship reforms, using her experience, garnered during her career, in leading, facilitating and overseeing implementation of new apprenticeship education pathways – which includes liaising with, and supporting Employers, working with stakeholders and Health and Education policy leads, to ensure that the apprenticeship standards are fit for use in the health and care sector, to support and develop patient facing and indirect patient facing roles. The programme Jane leads is designed to move from development and implementation, to a quality focussed, strong and sustainable apprenticeship strategy for the NHS.

Jane’s career includes many high points, particularly as a national Ambassador for Apprenticeships, in leading and supporting people fulfil their potential; in seeing the careers of many apprentices develop and flourish over the years; in raising the profile of widening participation and establishing new career pathways into health and care roles.

Jane was honoured with a national award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Development of Apprenticeships’ in 2020, and her team gained the Team Award in 2021. Jane was also awarded recognition as Highly Commended for partnership working with HEE and Skills for Health in the Health Service Journal Awards, 2020.

 

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.

Hannah has have worked in the field of Apprenticeships and Graduates for nearly 20 years and is currently the Head of Apprenticeship Delivery at Network Rail. Previous positions have included senior roles in National Express and RATP Dev London – a London Bus company. Hannah has been involved in developing various apprentice standards through trail blazer groups including a new standard for Bus Maintenance Engineers, and has worked with key stakeholders such as Transport for London to develop qualifications to drive improved customer experience

Hannah is Vice Chair of Governors and the Special Educational Needs Link Governor at a local secondary school and is passionate about the role that apprenticeships play in driving organisational performance and increasing social mobility.

Hanna has recently relocated with her family from London to Sheffield, where they joined the Open House Project – a self-supportive, eco-friendly co-housing community.

 

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.

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.

Brenda McLeish OBE is the CEO of one of the UK’s largest training providers, Learning Curve Group.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the education sector, Brenda has helped drive significant growth in the business, which delivers a broad range of educational services and training programmes across diverse industry sectors and a broad range of learners.

Having entered the sector with East Durham College, Brenda developed her career in a number of roles before joining Learning Curve Group in 2008.  Progressing to her current role as Chief Executive, Brenda has helped the business grow from 40 full-time employees to more than 450.

Learning Curve Group supports approximately 120,000 learners every year through the learning materials it creates and directly across its network of training facilities and skills academies in the North East and Yorkshire as well as through relationships with many thousands of employers. 

The company, which has just developed a new purpose-built headquarters five miles south of Durham City, has seen its turnover increase from £1m to in excess of £45m in the past decade as well as having national coverage as a training provider.

Brenda is an active member of a series of strategic boards and network steering groups including AELP, the North East Chamber of Commerce and the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership.

She has also led on strategy to respond to local and national priorities to support NEET’s, apprenticeship provision, delivery to the unemployed, work based training, flexible learning provision and English and Mathematics.