• 18 Jul 2024
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UK Skills Policy and Delivery opportunities for the new government

Join IoD Education Group for this panel debate with senior colleagues from across the UK's business groups and senior civil service.

How should the next government address this persistent challenge for the UK? What can business leaders do to forge long term partnerships with Westminster and Whitehall?

The availability of appropriate skills is a long-standing issue that negatively affects British business.

The issue has become particularly acute in the past couple of years. IoD research has found that, since the beginning of 2023, around 40% of IoD members have consistently stated that ‘skills shortages/employee skills gaps’ are having a negative effect on their organisation.

Action is needed to remedy skills and labour shortages across the UK to ensure that businesses are able to access the skills they need to grow and thrive. A whole-economy solution is needed, one which involves workplace training as much as it does the more traditional education routes for people at early stages of their careers.


Alex Hall-Chen, IoD

Alex Hall-Chen is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Institute of Directors. She is a specialist in employment, skills, and sustainability policy. She previously worked in education research and as a Policy Advisor at the Confederation of British Industry.

Event Chair: Gareth John - Co-lead, IoD Education Special Interest Group

Gareth is a qualified Chartered Accountant and has been delivering accountancy training for over 25 years. He is a Director with First Intuition who are one of the UK’s largest providers of accountancy apprenticeships. Gareth spends much of his time speaking to employers, awarding bodies and other stakeholders about the changing nature of skills development, and the role of government policy in supporting funded training delivery. Gareth is co-lead of the IoD’s Education Special Interest Group.

Faye Skelton – Head of Policy, Make UK

Faye is Head of Policy at Make UK, the Manufacturers’ Association, representing 20,000 manufacturers across the UK.

She leads Make UK’s policy and advocacy work, spanning labour market and skills, digitalisation and innovation, net zero, energy efficiency and devolution. Faye’s core focus is to champion manufacturers and influence Government to back manufacturing.

Prior to joining Make UK, Faye worked at the Department for Education and the Department for Business and Trade, working and leading on a variety of different Government policies.

Jane Gratton - Deputy Director of Policy, British Chambers of Commerce

Jane Gratton is Deputy Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce. The 52 UK Accredited Chambers of Commerce represent tens of thousands of businesses of all shapes and sizes, which employ almost six million people across the UK.

Jane leads on policy development, with a particular focus on employment and skills, business environment and planning.

Before joining the BCC, Jane was the Deputy Chief Executive at the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, delivering a wide range of business support services to thousands of firms, including employment and training, start-up, scale-up and international trade.

Paul Wilson – Policy Director, Federation of Small Businesses

Paul Wilson is the Policy Director at the Federation of Small Businesses, where his team aims to provide a voice for the UK’s 5.5 million small businesses and the self-employed. Paul’s team publishes regular reports on a range of topics that affect small businesses, including FSB’s quarterly confidence report, and Scaling up Skills – an in depth look at how skills policy affects in small businesses. Prior to joining FSB, Paul was a director at the Law Society and a civil servant.

Rob Nitsch – Delivery Director, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education

Rob is passionate about the development of a world-beating skills system, within which everyone is encouraged and supported to realise their potential. He joined the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) as its first Chief Operating Officer in June 2018, with an overarching brief to build IfATE’s capacity and capability across strategy, policy and operations. In 2022 his role was divided and he became the Director of Skills Delivery with responsibility for the development, approval, assessment and assurance of employer-led qualifications and apprenticeships in England. During his 6-years with IfATE Rob has overseen the commissioning and introduction of over 700 employer-led apprenticeships, 22 Technical Levels (T Levels), 250 Higher Technical Qualifications and 200 Level 3 qualifications, working alongside employers, the Department for Education, Regulators, assessment organisations and training providers.

Rob started his working life as a professional engineer in the British Army. During his military career he held operational and strategy appointments in engineering, training & education, logistics, corporate affairs and HR. He led one of the Army’s 4 operating divisions in the UK, Germany, Nepal and Brunei before being appointed to the Army’s Main Board as the Army’s HR Director from 2015 to 2018.

Rob is the Chair of Governors at the City of Portsmouth College and he is the Honorary Colonel of Southampton University Officer Training Corps. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). Rob was selected to be the Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies in June 2024, an appointment he will assume on 26 August 2024.

Rob West – Head of Education and Skills, Confederation of British Industry

Robert West is the Head of Education and Skills at the CBI where he plays a lead role as part of the Future of Work Directorate speaking for businesses across every region and nation in the UK, giving them a voice in influencing skills policy.

He joined CBI in 2022 from the Sector Skills Council for the creative industries – Creative & Cultural Skills where he led their National Skills Academy, bringing together business, education, and other stakeholders to identify and produce solutions in an ever-changing skills landscape. Previously Rob’s career has included working with universities, schools, FE and Adult Education colleges both in the UK and abroad. In his spare time, he continues to focus on skills by delivering football development sessions on behalf of Chelsea Football Club.

Simon Ashworth – Director of Policy, Association of Employment and Learning Providers

Simon is the Director of Policy and Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP). AELP is a national membership body, proudly representing around 800 organisations. AELP members support thousands of businesses and millions of learners in England by delivering a wide range of training, vocational learning, and employability programmes.

Simon is the senior responsible officer for policy development, stakeholder engagement and supporting members with a wide range of complex issues on funding and policy. At AELP Simon leads a small, high-performing team responsible for: policy, communications, projects, research, and public affairs.

Simon joined AELP in January 2017 and has worked in the further education and skills sector for over twenty years in a range of strategic and operational roles with different training providers and employers.

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