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Interview with Chris Jones, City & Guilds New Director General

FE News speaks to Chris Jones, the new Director General at City & Guilds, who took over from Chris Humphries on March 6th. In an exclusive interview, he tells us about his vision of City & Guilds for the future.

31st March 2008 – Chris Jones, the new Director General at City & Guilds, is relishing his new role. Having come from outside the company, he has spent his first weeks meeting with stakeholders and staff in order to understand how the organisation operates. Since his appointment at the beginning of March, he has been struck by the passion and commitment of City & Guilds staff: “Having worked in several organisations across my career, I have really noticed the drive and ambition there is at City & Guilds. The people who work at this company are passionate about what they do.”

Chris’ background is in publishing. He spent four years in the US with LexisNexis, the legal division of publisher Reed Elsevier. When his family returned to the UK he became chief executive of the education publisig company Harcourt International, being responsible for all the non-US markets. He says that the business was largely focused around the primary and secondary school markets but around four years ago there began an aggressive push to extend into the vocational sector. Chris says: “We recognised it was clearly an area that was undergoing a lot of change with a new focus on skills, not just in the UK but on a broader international footing.

“So in my previous job I had been looking at the skills agenda but in a publishing company the end product is very much focused round the learning process and is aimed at the learner and tutor. At City & Guilds of course the focus is centred around accreditation, working with colleges and increasingly employers.”

Chris acknowledges there is a lot to take on board in his new role. He says he is spending his first months gaining knowledge by speaking and listening to stakeholders, customers, trustees, the C&G group board and staff. He feels it is imperative to listen in order to get a sense of the key issues and move forward. He admits he is still getting to grips with the many acronyms and organisations that abound in the FE sector, something that most of us who have arrived from other sectors can probably relate to.

When asked what his priorities are for City & Guilds Chris points out that: “It is not an unattractive business already, being at the heart of developing and delivering qualifications. There is a wealth of offering through awards and its various institutions – the Institute of Leadership and Management, NPTC and the Hospitality Awarding Body. There is also the Centre for Skills Development which in some respects serves the original charter on an international basis – promoting and focusing on skills.”

City & Guilds is increasingly an international brand and Chris says: “The promotion of skills is a key agenda at global and country level. It is important that City & Guilds uses it’s knowledge to build networks and promote policy and practice. We need to consider how to do that across the globe whilst balancing it with the local market.”

Talking about Government moves to accredit employer training, the director general is largely positive: “We already work with employers to support skills training. Our feeling is that employer accreditation is a move in the right direction but it is important to make sure any such qualifications meet the long-term needs of employees. They have to be portable between job sectors and countries. The last thing anyone would want is to find that their qualifications are a barrier to moving on.”

As our interview draws to an end, Chris again draws attention to the drive of City & Guilds staff: “The people working here are very passionate about what they do. It is an honour to lead the organisation and we must ensure it remains relevant to the vision of providing skills.”


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