Boss of England’s largest apprenticeship provider steps down

He has led the firm for 10 years

The chief executive of England’s largest apprenticeship training provider has stepped down after 10 years at the helm.

Alex Khan’s departure from Lifetime Training was communicated to staff today and comes just weeks after Geoff Russell, who used to head up the Skills Funding Agency, became a new executive chair at the firm.

Khan is also likely to step away from his position as vice chair of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers as a result, just two months after being elected.

He will be replaced at Lifetime Training by JTL Training’s chief executive Jon Graham.

Khan’s departure marks the latest in a shakeup of the leadership team at Lifetime Training as it looks to recover its finances and starts numbers that were decimated by the pandemic.

Three weeks ago, staff were told that Lifetime’s chief financial officer, Peter Mitchell, and chief commercial officer, Sean Cosgrove, would be leaving the business.

Lifetime Training was put up for sale in 2019 by its private equity parent Silverfleet Capital. But the auction was put on ice in 2020 in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Lifetime Training, which is rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, has sat top of the apprenticeship provider table when it comes to starts for a number of years. But they have fallen dramatically in recent times.

The provider recorded 20,170 starts in 2017/18, which grew to 23,020 a year later, before falling by more than a third to 14,980 in 2019/20. In 2020/21 Lifetime had 12,910 starts and so far in 2021/22 they have recorded 6,990.

Most of Lifetime Training’s apprenticeship are in retail and hospitality – industries which have been hit the hardest by Covid-19. The falling starts numbers led to large-scale redundancies in 2020.

Lifetime Training’s latest accounts are for the 2019/20 year and show turnover decreased by 16 per cent, from £71,486,000 the year before to £59,913,000, while profit was down 40 per cent from £11,644,137 in 2018/29 to £6,879,657 in 2019/20.

Khan joined Lifetime Training in 2012 and over the last 10 years has grown the business from a team of 300 to over 1,200.

An email to staff from Lifetime Training’s management, seen by FE Week, said: “The business would not be where it is today without Alex’s talent and his tireless passion. We owe him a debt of gratitude.”

The email added: “But as Lifetime emerges from Covid-19, the next phase of growth for Lifetime will be led by our incoming chief executive, Jon Graham.”

Khan told FE Week: “The way in which our business works is you need to commit to new investment cycles and I thought well 10 years is a long time in one organisation so I decided to step down.

“It has been a fantastic journey. I love the business and the people. We have grown into new sectors and we have fantastic relationships with clients who we continue to support their aspirations of their people.”

Graham was previously on the advisory board of the Skills Funding Agency, a predecessor of the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

He is also a director of the Education and Training Foundation sits on the AELP board.

AELP has been contacted for comment about what happens with the vice chair role following Khan’s departure from Lifetime Training.

A JTL spokesperson said its current chief operating officer, Paul McGuire, will act as interim chief executive whilst the board starts the process for selecting a permanent replacement for Graham.

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  1. Bobby Barnes

    This clearly smells. Still on their web site as the management team, still on Companies House as Directors – all happened very quickly with the Chair gone as well.

    Who is betting is it either awful achievements, ESFA audit or investigation or poor OFSTED or a combination of all of the above.

    And to go from AELP when he was only appointed two months ago as Deputy Chair.

    A clear out at the bequest of the ESFA I suspect but it will never be published or disclosed. In the old days, FE Week would have been all over this like a rash !

    • Jeff Smith

      Or just some people who have worked incredibly hard to keep a business afloat during a really difficult time and have done an incredible job at doing so and supporting staff and learners – but are now need a break or want a different opportunity. Alex and Peter have been at that business for over 10 years – probably time for them to move on to something new?! They will still be on companies house as they are still running the business – they have just announced they are leaving?

      Stop trying to create scandal where there absolutely is none – well done to FE Week to reporting a story as it is rather than making it up!

      • Jim Limbo

        Could not agree more. A decade leading and building a business in a tough world. I wonder if Bobby actually achieved anything or is just a key board warrior. There is a new editor now , who reports is a more objective way, and less about personal vendettas. In `FE we love to kick people down. Rather than give benefit of the doubt and support. There is a reason we are the 3rd sector, we do it to ourselves, and people like Bobby are part of that problem.

        Well done FE week for a balanced report, not ‘massive loss in profit and ceo quits’ type headline.