IfA boss refuses to say whether he wants to remain in post as DfE forced to re-advertise role

The Institute for Apprenticeships will re-advertise for a new chief executive in the coming months, but its current boss has remained tight-lipped over his future.

Sir Gerry Berragan took the top job at the IfA in November 2017 and later revealed to FE Week that he was only contracted for two years because he did not go through a formal recruitment process.

The former army man, who was a career soldier for 37 years, admitted at the time that he only decided to “throw my hat in the ring” after the institute endured a fruitless sixth-month hunt.

The post will be re-advertised this year

But as the end of his contract approaches, Sir Gerry has refused to commit to reapplying for the role.

“The post will be re-advertised this year and if I want to do it I will reapply,” he told FE Week.

“That’s none of your business, I’ve said all I am going to say,” he added when asked about his interest in carrying on in the job.

If Sir Gerry decides not to reapply it is likely to be a blow for the IfA.

The current chief executive and former board member has been pivotal in creating and leading the institute, guiding it through its “faster and better” approach to the apprenticeships programme, and the government’s first ever funding band reviews.

It will also come at a time when the institute takes on responsibility for T-levels from the Department for Education.

The IfA will officially change its name to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education in the next few weeks, at which point it will assume powers for the new post-16 technical qualifications.

If Sir Gerry doesn’t throw his hat back in the ring for the IfA job then a likely successor could be his second-in-command, Robert Nitsch.

The current chief operating officer, who also worked in the army for years, caused controversy last month when he delivered a presentation to an employer engagement event which included a forecast of a £500 million overspend on the apprenticeship budget in 2018/19 – rising to £1.5 billion by 2020/21.

The figures prompted widespread concerns and demands for an open debate on how the levy operates, and for the IfA to share the full presentation, which it has now finally done.

The IfA will most likely be hoping that it doesn’t have to recruit an external person to the chief executive role, considering the difficulty it ran into two years ago.

Sir Gerry spoke to FE Week about his unusual appointment when he took the job in 2017.

“All I know is that by mid-to-end October, it had reached a stage where they had not found a candidate that fitted all the criteria, and that was a frustration because we knew Peter Lauener was going to retire at the end of the year,” he said.

The search for a full-time successor to the outgoing Mr Lauener, who was also coming to the end of his stint as chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, began in April 2017.

Well, you know, if you want I’ll throw my hat in the ring

The initial recruitment round had no success so the IfA turned to headhunters in July, which again was unsuccessful.

A breakthrough was finally achieved during a two-hour working dinner with two fellow board members, IfA chair and former Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins, and Dame Fiona Kendrick, who chairs Nestle UK.

“There was a bit of an imperative to get someone in place,” said Sir Gerry.

“That’s when I said to the chairman ‘well, you know, if you want I’ll throw my hat in the ring’.”

A “mini-recruitment phase” followed.

“The only way they could appoint me was for a two-year period because I hadn’t gone through the formal recruitment process. After that, I’d have to go through another recruitment process if I wanted to stay longer.”

A formal recruitment process, under Cabinet Office rules, would have involved Sir Gerry going up against multiple other candidates for the job