Mark Dawe is stepping down as chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers to head up a major subcontractor to colleges.

He began telling staff today that he is set to leave the role this summer after leading the membership organisation for four years.

Current chief operating officer, Jane Hickie, has been promoted to become managing director as part of a new structure at AELP.

Dawe will stay on in an advisory role but will join The Skills Network full-time from August – a well-known independent training provider based in North Yorkshire that delivers mainly short online courses funded from the adult education budget and European Social Fund.

He said there is “never an easy time to leave a role like this” but the “opportunity to be part of the transformation of education delivery was too much to resist”.

“It has been a fantastic journey for AELP and its members during a period for me that started a year before the apprenticeship levy’s introduction, has included many challenges whether they be AEB procurement, apprenticeships standards and assessment development, non-levy funding, or through to the battle for survival during the Covid crisis,” Dawe added.

“AELP has established the importance of apprenticeships, work based learning and independent training providers at the heart of employers and government thinking, although we will never have to stop reminding them of that.”

The Skills Network was founded by Mick Cox in 2009. In 2018/19, the provider was a subcontractor to 48 colleges with contracts worth almost £10 million in total.

The firm was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2018 which inspected its direct delivery of distance learning courses to around 400 adults, not its subcontracted provision.

Education and Skills Funding Agency data shows the provider currently has its own non-levy apprenticeships allocation of £191,000 and an advance learner loans contract worth £486,000.

The Skills Network’s most recently published accounts, for the year ending July 2018, show a turnover of £14.3 million and 184 staff.

Hickie will assume most of Dawe’s responsibilities at the AELP from mid-August. The organsiation said she will be supported by a “more hands-on approach” taken by their recently strengthened board with the formation of a policy and funding group of  members and other experts, chaired by Stewart Segal.

Dawe will sit on this group and Simon Ashworth as AELP’s chief policy officer will continue as the senior management lead for policy and funding matters. 

AELP chair Martin Dunford said: “The board and I acknowledge everything that Mark Dawe has achieved for AELP and our members including the fact that AELP’s profile has never been higher.

“We wish Mark every success in his new role and we are delighted that he will still be lending his experience and expertise to AELP’s new policy and funding group.”

Hickie added: “I join Martin and the board in wishing Mark well in his new role and the AELP staff will undoubtedly miss his very positive approach which has helped drive the organisation forward.

“A strong team at AELP is part of Mark’s legacy and this will give me great confidence in leading the organisation during the immediate post-pandemic period.”

Prior to joining the AELP, Dawe was the chief executive of exam board OCR for five years.

He had a stint as a college principal before this at Oaklands College, and is a former deputy director for FE and adult basic skills strategy at the Department of Education after joining the civil service in 2003.

Dawe started out his career by qualifying as a chartered accountant at KPMG having read economics at Cambridge University. He joined Canterbury College, becoming head of corporate services in 1994.

Aside from his current role as boss of the AELP, he is on the board of WorldSkills UK as well as the ESFA advisory board, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s quality alliance and the DfE’s apprenticeship stakeholder board.

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