Sandy Lindsay MBE, Chair of the IoD and North West Business Leadership Team Skills Groups

Sandy Lindsay MBE, Chair of the IoD and North West Business Leadership Team Skills Groups, discusses efforts to close the skills gap in the North West of England, and how businesses can play a more active role in education to benefit the regional economy.     

It feels like every room I’m in at the moment, everyone is talking about skills. Go to an event about productivity, the conversation inexorably comes around to skills; a ‘future of digital’ event – skills; a Brexit discussion – skills; Northern Powerhouse; Devo Manc…

For many years, it feels like we’ve hummed and hawed about these ubiquitous skills gaps and, while lots of activity has taken place, they’re still there – like yawning, cavernous black holes, threatening to suck in any progress we make in other areas of our economy.

In order to put a stake in the ground to try to move this agenda forward, in the North West we bought together the IoD, the North West Business Leadership Team, and the CBI – three organisations that represent a cross section of the region’s leading employers, from micro to major – and ran a programme of research and discussions which culminated in a workshop.

We questioned what our ‘Northern Stars’ - the employees of the future, currently being honed in our schools, colleges and universities - needed to look like, understand, be capable of and be able to cope with in our ever-changing world (resilience, ambition, agility, as well as the obvious numeracy, literacy and oracy sills).

We agreed our major concerns and critical success factors - careers advice in schools and colleges and digital literacy for all - and we discussed what we believe are the key issues:

  • Sharing – lots happening but much is localised and short term – how do we share what’s working (and not) so we can all get on board?
  • Scaling – how do we then take those learnings and make the most of those projects that are working and scale them?
  • Signposting – so many companies ‘would like to…’ take on a work experience person, an apprentice, a graduate…but are baffled as to where to start. How do we get better at signposting what’s already happening so more can benefit?
  • System – and most importantly, how do we free up the system (and especially the funding of the system) so that it supports what WE need as a region?

And we set out the absolute will that employers have to play a key role in making this all come about and the difficulties they’re finding in liaising productively with schools and colleges.

The Skills Charter, which is the mechanism by which we’ve captured all of these opinions and findings, is launching as we speak and our hope is that we’ll share it with policy makers and educators across our region and nationally to move the discussion on with key guidance as to what employers think good looks like in the world of education and skills.

For colleges, the message is loud and clear: we want to help. We – your local employers – want to play a key role in helping shape your courses so that they stay relevant to us and other local employers – especially in light of constantly changing digital and tech innovations - and we know you want the same. We’re keen to offer our people to be part of your courses. We’re keen to offer your lecturers mentorships and your leaders support.

We also want to make the ‘brand’ of apprenticeships far better than it currently is – there are still young people, parents and employers who believe that apprenticeships are for those who are not clever or rich enough to go to university. We know this is not true and we want to help spread this message. We know the apprenticeships being offered by colleges across the land are a vital part of making our future workforce what it needs to be – how can we work with you to spread this word?

With Brexit on the horizon, an ageing population and the digital revolution, the challenges and opportunities for employers and colleges have never been greater. Let’s work together to the benefit of all and a brighter future for our region.

Sandy Lindsay MBE is Chair of the IoD and North West Business Leadership Team Skills Group.

She is also Founder and Chair of Tangerine and multi award-winning apprentices’ programme, The Juice Academy.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page