Christmas and New Year message from the Lorna Unwin, Chair of GTA England

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this has been another challenging year for GTAs given the very tough funding climate and with yet more reforms to apprenticeship on the way. Although there are signs of economic recovery, some areas of the country are clearly doing much better than others so the level of employer demand for training and broader business support will vary. Yet, as I come to the end of my first year as Chair of GTA England, I’m hearing many more voices of optimism than when I took office last January. We have the highest number of members since GTA England was formed in 2009 and more organisations are applying to join. I’m determined to ensure that GTA England maintains momentum on two fronts. First, as a membership organisation, we have to get even better at consulting and listening to you, not only about the support and services you need, but also to make sure your ideas and expertise are being relayed to policymakers. Second, GTA England has to continue to impress on policymakers the vital and distinctive role that GTAs play locally and nationally as employer-led organisations. I’m happy to say that this year we have achieved a number of successes on both fronts.

    • Trailblazers: GTA England is now recognized as the representative of SMEs by the blue chip employers responsible for developing the new Standards for Aerospace, Automotive, Food and Drink, and Marine. This has meant SMEs have been participating in the process. BIS wants GTA England to be closely involved with the new generation of Standards in other technical and service sectors
    • Funding: We have played a key role in ensuring the allocation of the highest government contribution in band 5 of £17k (to be supplemented by employer contribution of £9k) and in advising BIS on potential funding models.
    • Policy Reviews: We have been invited to join the Perkins Review of Engineering and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships.
    • External Grant: We secured funding from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation to appoint a Network Development Manager.
    • Training Officer course: This is a key means of differentiating GTAs. The first course has received excellent feedback and more are planned.
    • Peer Review: We have created PR Leads and Coordinators from within the GTA network to enhance and expand this vital service for members.
    • First ‘Outstanding’ GTA: South West Durham Training was declared ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.
    • Apprentice of the Year Awards: We launched this very successful and inspiring event at the House of
      Commons in October.
    • Membership Fees: Finally, and perhaps most importantly (!!), due to budget savings, there will be no fee increase in 2015, indeed a reduction from 2014.

    When you’re raising a glass this Christmas, please say ‘Cheers’ to GTA England’s Chief Executive, Mark Maudsley, whose hard work and persistence has underpinned many of these achievements. Mark is getting greyer (!), but he, like me, is feeling even more enthusiastic about the potential of the GTA network. I’d also like to thank the members of the GTA England Board for the important part they’ve played in these achievements and their unflagging determination to promote GTAs. I’m looking forward to visiting many more GTAs in 2015 so that I can learn more about the work you are doing and the challenges you face. I hope you have a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

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