Who is the first chair of the skills and productivity board?

An executive vice president at international broadcaster Sky has been appointed as chair of the Department for Education’s new skills and productivity board.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson today announced that Stephen van Rooyen (pictured) will lead the group to provide “expert advice” on how courses and qualifications should align to the skills that employers need post-Covid-19.

Williamson said van Rooyen has a “wealth of experience across the technology, engineering and communications sectors and will be able to share his vital insight and leadership with the panel”.

Van Rooyen’s full title at Sky is “executive vice president and chief executive officer, UK and Europe, established markets” with responsibility for Sky Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. He has worked at Sky in various roles since 2006 and before that worked at Virign Media and Nokia.

The skills and productivity board was first announced in October 2019 and will play a “central role in driving forward the government’s ambitious FE reform programme”, the DfE said.

Van Rooyen said: “Given the pace of change in business and in workplaces today, and the economic challenges of Covid, the new skills and productivity board has a key role to play in developing our skills economy for current and future generations. It is a privilege to contribute, and I’m looking forward to working with the panel and the government to drive this important agenda.”

Williamson said that van Rooyen is a “keen and proud champion of apprentices, having taken Sky’s apprenticeship programme from strength to strength”.

“He will lead an expert panel who will provide important advice on how to tackle the nation’s skill challenges,” the education secretary added.

“The board will play a key role in helping us to rebuild our economy post-Covid-19 and deliver our bold skills agenda. I look forward to working with him to level up opportunity across the country ensuring people have the skills they need to progress.”

The work of the skills and productivity board will be carried out by a panel of five “leading” skills and labour market economists, supported by Department for Education officials.

The panel will undertake independent research and analysis in response to questions set out by Williamson and van Rooyen.

Applications for panel members closed earlier this month and appointments will be made in due course, the DfE said.

Their appointment will come ahead of the government’s forthcoming FE White Paper, which will set out “detailed plans to build a high-quality further education system – one that unlocks potential, levels up skills and boosts opportunities for people across the country”.