From education to employment

Jill Whittaker at the FE Collective

Jill Whittaker

When Gavin asked me to be part of the FE Collective, I was delighted. I’ve been in work-based learning since the last century, and I take great pleasure in interacting with others in the sector to pick up different perspectives. What better way to invest in the sector of the future than to spend time with people who really know their stuff?

Technology has changed a lot since 1998, but when I examine how we are harnessing its power I find myself a little disappointed. Yes, every member of staff has a mobile phone and a laptop and can work from anywhere, but how have we embraced technology to properly deliver for us? The industries in which HIT operates aren’t tech heavy.

I was talking to Sue from REMIT recently and she was telling me about some of the fabulous AI they have developed to support their learners; headsets that look deep into the mechanics of a lorry engine, for example. I honestly can’t see a use for it, at least in volume, at HIT (I’m open to challenge, BTW!).

Where I see the greatest value of emerging technologies is in reducing the day-to-day drudgery of my people and their clients – freeing up time currently taken by administration (probably about 25% of their time) to allow them to get on with delivering, and receiving, a great personal learning experience.

For me, investing in the future isn’t just about AI, technology and machine led strategies. Humans need to be looked after, nurtured, and engaged in the businesses that pay their wages. People matter. I’ve often said life would be a lot easier if I had an automated factory, but I don’t!

So, we sought out an alternative ownership model to allow the people who are key to our success today to be the ones who can not only have a say in our future but also directly benefit. The HIT Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) has allowed us to put the ownership of the organisation into the hands of our staff. When we started HIT, many staff at the time bought shares, but over time the share ownership became rather fixed.

The EOT has changed that by paying off the people who enabled us to get started, in a tax efficient way, and putting most shares in a trust for the benefit of our current staff. One of the benefits is that, when we have a surplus, we can pay each member of staff a tax-free bonus of up to £3,600. That creates a direct link between staff efficiency and personal benefit. Neat, eh?

I’m looking forward to discussing this, and many other topics, more with friends old and new at the FE Collective.

By Jill Whittaker, Managing Director at HIT Training Ltd

Interested in meeting Jill in person? Join us at the FE Collective in Birmingham on October 17th! The FE Collective is a significant event where we collaborate to create a sector-specific report, crafted by the sector, for the sector. Don’t miss the chance to listen to Jill  discuss topics like artificial intelligence, investments in the future sector, and progression. To find out more, join us at the FE Collective – get all the details here.

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