From education to employment

Experienced businessman takes the helm at leading North East College

Experienced entrepreneur and solicitor Michael Wood Williams has been appointed as the new chair of Gateshead College.

He brings a wealth of business experience to the role, including a successful record of working in the computer software industry, and expertise in business planning, corporate finance, company law and the implementation of software and systems. Over recent years, he has also held a number of non-executive director positions.

Michael, who has been vice-chair at Gateshead College since 2021, said:

“I am delighted to take up this important post. I’ll be focused on supporting colleagues so that everyone feels empowered in the boardroom, working together to make sure it feels like the safest space possible to explore ideas so we can continue to challenge ourselves to deliver on the college’s ambitious vision.”

He succeeds North East business leader, Sarah Stewart OBE DL, who has held numerous board positions in private, public and third sectors. Sarah, a former High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear, and former CEO of NewcastleGateshead Initiative, had been in post for over three years.

Working with the board and executive team, Sarah oversaw the successful transition Gateshead College has undergone in recent years – which included delivering a financial recovery plan and building a new leadership team, including the recruitment of a chief executive and financial director, along with refreshing the board membership and, most recently securing a strong Ofsted inspection outcome.

Michael commented: “The college is in a strong place because of Sarah’s leadership and our governance is in great shape. I’ll continue to build on this to maintain our strength and depth, whilst ensuring we have the agility to get the most out of the many opportunities impacting the college and our region as the skills landscape changes.”

He added: “The remarkable thing about Sarah was how she brought together an amazing team with an ability to recognise the skills needed to maximise effectiveness. Her support of individuals was key to enabling the board and executive to work at pace and to an exacting standard from the off.”

Changes in the chair follow a positive Ofsted inspection in March 2023 that awarded Gateshead College the highest grade of ‘strong’ for meeting employer skills needs, with the report acknowledging how embedded this approach is across the organisation. The report saw Gateshead College rated as being ‘outstanding’ in three areas of performance – adult learning, behaviour and attitudes, and personal development. The college’s overall effectiveness is rated as ‘good.’

David Alexander, principal at Gateshead College, said:

“Michael assumes the role at an exciting time in the development of Gateshead College. We’re in a strong position focussed on meeting local and regional skills needs. While this has always been a priority for the college it was Sarah Stewart who strengthened our focus on several priorities, built on the foundations of having strong finances, governance and leadership.

“I look forward to working more closely with Michael in delivering on our new strategic plan. Our vision is simple – to be at the heart of a thriving community, helping people to achieve their full potential and gain the employment edge.”

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