A training provider founder and apprenticeships author has been appointed as the next chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP).
Rowland founded Arch Apprenticeships a decade ago before leaving in 2020 after it was taken over by Avado. In recent years he has run his own consultancy, Studio 3 Advisory, and been a freelance apprenticeships adviser.
Ben Rowland will take over as boss of the membership body in December. He replaces Jane Hickie who left in June.
Last month he published a book, ‘Understanding apprenticeships: a student’s guide,’ aimed at young people leaving full time education and is currently working on a new transatlantic apprenticeship exchange programme with international qualifications body ECCTIS. He also runs a personal training service for the over 50s.
He said he was “so happy and excited” to be taking up the role of AELP chief.
“There are huge challenges for the sector right now – and also some important opportunities,” he added.
“I believe AELP is going to make a big difference in helping our members to overcome these challenges and take these opportunities. I am excited and feel privileged to have the opportunity to lead the organisation in this crucial period.”
Rowland founded Arch Apprenticeship in 2012 with the backing of Blenheim Chalcot – where he was operating partner for education and later a managing director – to create “a white collar apprenticeship programme that breaks the mould”.
Arch Apprenticeships scored an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted result at its first inspection in 2016.
When Arch Apprenticeships merged with Avado two years later, Rowland stayed on client solution director and then government and public services director before leaving the business in January 2020.
It grew to be one of the largest providers of apprenticeships in England with 1,350 starts in 2021/22, but Avado exited the market in the summer to pursue “more attractive” options. The provider was however reinspected by Ofsted around the same time which resulted in a downgrade to ‘requires improvement’ in a report published in September.
Rowland previously sat on the Department for Education’s apprenticeship stakeholder board.
Earlier this year, he launched a personal training service for the over 50s, which his LinkedIn profile describes as an “engaging and lively offering to enable people who are 50+ to reconnect with their bodies in a way that energises them … and brings life back to their lives”.
Before setting up Arch, Rowland had a career in public sector consulting, in which he co-founded, led and sold RSe Consulting to Tribal Group plc, and was involved as a volunteer in various capacities for 25 years at Toynbee Hall, the social change charity in East London, including six years as chair of the Board.
He is a graduate of the University of Oxford and holds a masters in social policy from the London School of Economics.
AELP chair Nichola Hay said: “Ben’s previous experience and skills are going to be of great benefit to AELP and our members. We look forward to Ben leading and delivering AELP’s vision, Skills Means Growth, as well as growing the organisation and services for our members.
“We are also looking forward to Ben ensuring the voice of independent training providers is heard and recognised in the FE sector and beyond during these challenging times.”
AELP has a mix of around 800 members from independent, not-for-profit and voluntary sector training and employment services organisations.
[UPDATE – A reference to a pending investigation into Jane Hickie has been removed. FE Week has learned the AELP investigation was dropped following Hickie’s departure from the organisation.]