From education to employment

End of an era, as Martin Dunford OBE steps down as Chair of AELP’s board

Martin Dunford

After 18 years at the helm, Martin Dunford OBE has stepped down as Chair of AELP’s board, effective as of the AGM on 22 February 2022. Martin- a founding member of the membership organisation and well-respected veteran skills sector leader advised fellow board members and the AELP senior leadership team of his intentions a year ago. Starting with just a small handful of members, AELP has gone strength-to-strength under Martin’s chairmanship. The company now has around 800 members and is widely recognised as voice of the training provider community.

Martin began his career in international sales, marketing, product, and business development, during which time he qualified for an MBA. Prior to becoming Chief Executive of Skills Training UK, Martin was Chief Executive of the Training and Business Group (TBG). He has served as an expert advisor on a number of government advisory panels and boards around Further Education and skills policy, including ten years on the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network. His company Skills Training UK is an award-winning national training provider with a particular focus on individual and business improvement. Martin has always worked closely with AELP’s leadership team, particularly on policy development and the issues affecting members, their learners and employer customers. Martin was awarded an OBE in the 2010 New Year Honours list for services to skills training.

Martin was succeeded as Chair of AELP’s board at the 2022 AGM by Nichola Hay MBE, Chief Operating Officer of Estio Training and previous board Vice Chair. Nicki has worked in the Further Education sector for over 20 years, most recently joining the Executive Board of Estio Training, a specialist provider of digital and tech apprenticeships.

Nicki serves Chair of AELP London and sits on the GLA’s Skills for Londoners Board. She also sits on the Aviation Industry Skills Board (AISB) and takes an active role in 14-19 strategic groups, policy groups and committees. Nicki was recognised for her services to apprenticeships and skills in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2021 New Year Honours List, where she was awarded an MBE.

Alex Khan MBE, Chief Executive of Lifetime Training was also elected as the new Vice Chair of AELP’s board. Alex has worked in the training sector since 1999. Prior to his appointment as Chief Executive of Lifetime Training, he has run some of the biggest apprenticeship training businesses in the country, giving him a wealth of experience of the vocational training and Apprenticeship market across a wide range of different sectors.

Martin Dunford OBE said: “I have been proud to chair the board for the last 18 years, having been involved in the organisation since its inception. Over those years, I have watched AELP grow significantly. We have moved mountains in that time.  When we started out, we never imagined that we would see a day when we would have ministerial position dedicated to skills and apprenticeships.  We have never lost sight of our core values: To support learners, providers, and employers and to make a real impact through skills. As I step down and hand over the reins to a new Chair, I am pleased to see that, despite challenges, AELP’s future is brighter than ever. I have every confidence that the leadership team and board, is ready to tackle the challenges our sector faces.”

Jane Hickie said: “I would like to thank Martin for his relentless commitment to AELP. A founding member of AELP nearly two decades ago, Martin had a vision to create a membership organisation which would support and represent ITPs with government to ensure that they had a voice and position in the FE Sector. During his time as Chair, he has supported four Chief Executives and led the board with a pure ambition which has resulted in not only AELP being the ‘go to’ organisation for ITPs but also for government ministers.  Martin has been a fantastic support to me, both personally and professionally. On behalf of the AELP board, staff team, and all of our members, I thank him for all that he has done and wish him all the very best for the future.

I am also really looking forward to working with Nicki and Alex as the new Chair and Vice Chair of the board. Both are brilliant advocates for AELP and the wider sector. I know Nicki and Alex share my vision for AELP- as the forward-thinking, outward-facing leading membership organisation for the employment and learning sector. I know the new board leadership team will ensure the voice of all providers are heard loud and clear with officials”.

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