The FE sector’s new professionalism and standards organisation, the Education and Training Foundation, launched today.

The body, funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and formerly known as the FE Guild, started work with its first board meeting, in London.

It comes almost four months after FE Week revealed government funding of the foundation of £18.8m for year one and again in year two along with a series of steering group meetings.

Sir Geoff Hall, foundation interim chief executive, said: “With a focus on workforce professionalism and continuous improvement, the job of this new foundation is to ensure that education and training providers understand and meet the needs of businesses and communities, and have the most effective and best equipped workforce in place.

“We want every learner and every trainee to get maximum benefit from their experience and we want every practitioner to benefit from effective and impactful continuing professional development opportunities.

“Our priorities are to improve learner experience and outcomes, to enhance the reputation of the sector, to develop provider good practice, to make the sector an attractive place to join and work, and to promote and champion equality and diversity across the sector.”

The guild proposal was first put forward by ministers in 2011. A small project team, with a steering group with representation from the sector, issued a consultation document at the end of January.

Its implementation plan, produced at the end of March, sparked controversy when the National Union of Students criticised the decision that there be no learner representation at board level.

Nevertheless, the body was set up with board members proposed by the Association of Colleges (AoC), the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), the Third Sector National Learning Alliance, and HOLEX.

The board includes Don Hayes MBE, chief executive of voluntary skills consortium Enable; Lynsi Hayward-Smith, head of adult learning and skills at Cambridgeshire County Council; and, John Hyde, co-founder and executive chairman of HIT (Hospitality Industry Training).

Joining them is Chris Jeffrey, strategy and policy adviser for General Physics (UK) Ltd Skills Training Academy; Asha Khemka OBE, principal of West Nottinghamshire College; Peter McCann, principal of Kirklees College; and, Mark White, vice-chair of Stockton Riverside College.

David Hughes, independent chair of the guild’s development steering group and chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, said: “The new foundation has made a strong and early commitment to engaging with learners and the workforce.

“There will be a learner and a practitioner on the foundation board, and we are working with NUS, employee unions and The Institute for Learning to ensure that learner and practitioner voices are heard and acted upon across all areas of work.

“We will drive continuous quality improvement through genuine sector ownership, recognising best practice and tackling issues as we find them.”

Martin Doel, AoC chief executive, said: “This is an exciting time for the FE and skills sector and I am confident this new organisation will have a positive impact not just for individual learners, teachers, practitioners and organisations, but on the status of FE and training as a whole.”

Stewart Segal, AELP chief executive, said: “As a sector, we have had a very real opportunity to shape the new foundation and form its priorities.

“This is truly about self-improvement by the sector, for the sector. By listening to and involving providers, practitioners, learners and employers, the foundation will ensure we are all best-placed to meet future needs.”

The foundation launch took place at the Goldsmiths’ Centre.