The group – made up of representatives from education, business, and young people – will help to increase engagement with our development programmes among underrepresented groups, enabling us to reach young people from all backgrounds and give them the best start in work and life.

Members will help us to address and remove barriers and challenges identified through the research, which prevent young people from accessing our development programmes.

Young person competing in IT support Technician competition

Key priorities of the group

two girls at worldskills uk live

Engaging young people and enabling equity

young person public speaking

Growing awareness of the group’s mission and engaging more partners to drive positive change

Young person competing in Sheet Metalwork competition

Raising awareness, knowledge and understanding of good equity, diversity and inclusion practices

The group's members are

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE

Photo of Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann

Neil was previously Deputy Director-General and Chief Operating Officer at the CBI, the UK’s premier business organisation, where he worked for 12 years at the highest level of the business and government interface nationally and internationally on issues such as trade and investment, diversity, skills and employment, public services reform, climate change and infrastructure development.

Neil is a trustee of the Whitehall and Industry Group, a member of the advisory council for the IPA employment think tank and the independent member of the Social Inclusion Committee at Warwick University. He was also the former CEO of OUTstanding, a business network for LGBT leaders and their allies, and former deputy chair of Stonewall, the LGBT equality charity. He holds a PhD in race equality in the workplace and was awarded an OBE for services to diversity and inclusion in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List. In 2019, Neil was also awarded an honorary doctorate by Middlesex University for services to STEM education.

Jo Maher

Qualified Teacher, Assessor, Chartered Scientist and internationally published academic. Previously the lead psychologist for WorldSkills Team UK. Previously Principal and Chief Executive at Boston College, Lincolnshire.

Clare Howard

With 25 years’ experience in the public, private and voluntary sectors, Clare became chief executive of Natspec in January 2016. Clare worked at the Association of Colleges for six years and her career has included posts in local authorities, funding agencies, schools and colleges. As a consultant in the 2000s, Clare worked on more than 200 projects and took interim posts across the education, sport and health sectors, developing a passion for further education and a particular interest in services and education for people with learning difficulties and disabilities. She has worked with special schools, specialist colleges and national disability organisations and her expertise includes organisational development, funding bids, training, change management and governance projects.

Mandy-Jayne Evans

Elizabeth Forkuoh

Marion Plant

Photo of Marion Plant

Marion Plant is Principal and Chief Executive of North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College (NWSLC) and Chief Executive of the Midland Academies Trust which is responsible for secondary schools.  Marion also previously served a 3-year term as a non-executive director at the Department for Education.  In 2018 Marion was awarded the ‘Business Woman of the Year Award’ by the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce and in September 2019 was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Leicestershire Live Women in Business Awards, devised to celebrate the outstanding achievements of female professionals in the region.  Marion was also granted ‘Highly Commended’ in the Pearson National Teaching Awards ‘Lifetime Achievement’ category in 2022.

She serves on several national/ regional bodies including:

·        Chair and Trustee of WorldSkills UK

·        Member of Coventry and Warwickshire Skills Advisory Panel

·        Vice Chair of the Nuneaton Towns’ Fund Board

·        Trustee of the National Society Council (Church of England)

·        Member of the AoC’s Portfolio Group for Climate Change

Susanna Lawson

Susanna started her career as a psychology graduate from the University of Manchester and went on to work with adults with learning difficulties. Susanna then had to complete an NVQ in care to demonstrate her practical competencies – and her involvement in vocational training began.

After completing her NVQ levels 2 and 3, she soon moved up the ranks, and was appointed the National Contract Manager for an independent training provider, overseeing 1,000 apprentices across the UK. Throughout her journey she witnessed huge inefficiencies at every stage of the sector, and together with her partner decided to build a solution: OneFile.

OneFile is now the leading eportfolio software in the educational sector and was awarded the Queen’s Award in 2017 and 2022 for innovation in the apprenticeship sector.

Susanna and her partner exited OneFile in October 2021, selling to Harris Computers, part of the Constellation Software group, the 2nd largest tech company in Canada. Susanna remains an ambassador for OneFile – promoting apprenticeships as well as holding several non-executive director/trustee roles in the education and technology sectors.

John Sweeney O’Hara

SNR Learner Engagement Officer – New College Lanarkshire. WorldSkills UK Gold Medallist London 2011 (Advanced Hairdressing). Judge Team selection 2017, Judge AHT (Association of Hairdressers and Therapists).

I have a keen interest in EDI and access to competitions for underrepresented groups.

Jeff Greenidge

Paul Eeles

Paul has over 33 years’ experience in the post-16 skills sector, including seven years as a lecturer and 13 years leading work-based learning within colleges and independent providers. During that time, he has set up and led an independent apprenticeship training provider business.  For the past nearly two decades, he has been on the senior teams of all the key membership bodies across the further education and skills sector, representing apprenticeship providers and colleges, to government and their agencies. More recently, along with being the CEO of Skills and Education Group, he has been on the board of and chaired the body representing awarding organisations across the UK, the Federation of Awarding Bodies.   Paul is also a member of the Boards of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), Helena Kennedy Foundation (HKF) and recently joined the board of the safeguarding Charity thirtyone:eight.

Mandy Crawford-Lee

Dr Mandy Crawford-Lee has over 30 years’ experience of leading and negotiating skills policy, strategic planning and performance management in economic development, vocational education and training reform. She is a sound and respected resource for those involved in the development and delivery of apprenticeships at the higher level having led national policy, managed the Coalition Government’s successful Higher Apprenticeship Fund and revised the Specification of Apprenticeship Standard in England (SASE) leading to the opening up of pathways in higher level learning for apprentices beyond Level 3 and into a work-based route through to professional, senior technical and managerial occupations and, where appropriate, professional accreditation.

Joanna Hollingdale

A qualified careers practitioner with experience in multi-agency working in both commercial and educational settings. Reliable and flexible individual who is willing and keen to learn new skills and take on new challenges. Highly practical with the ability to organise information, make decisions and plan a strategy for the desired outcome. Experience of leading projects as well as being a productive member of the team. In addition to this being creative and tenacious.

We are ambitious to keep pushing for change, and we know that we can’t do it alone. This group will be a critical friend to support and challenge us to drive change.

We are driven by the knowledge that raising the bar and widening the gate are not mutually exclusive. Working with our partners we can help ensure that more young people get access to the benefits of our skills programmes and training to achieve higher standards to help them succeed in work and life.

The make-up of the group is also inclusive, including 50 per cent women, over a quarter who are BAME, members who identify as LGBT+ and have different faiths, and representation of learners with learning difficulties and disabilities, which means we can take a holistic but targeted approach with a bias to action to help drive further partnership working across the sector.

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, CEO, WorldSkills UK

I have seen first-hand how WorldSkills UK’s development programmes have transformed the technical skills and confidence of young people, which is why at NWSLC we encourage as many of our students to take part as possible. I’m excited to be working together with others across the sector, with the joint mission of reaching more young people from all backgrounds and helping to give them the skills needed to create stronger and brighter futures.

Marion Plant, Deputy Chair, WorldSkills UK, and CEO, North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College

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