Join us at the Skills and Education Group Conference 2023 – a highlight of the further education and skills calendar


After a successful 110-year anniversary event last year, the Skills and Education Group Conference takes place again on 23 May 2023.

This annual event is a highlight of the further education and skills calendar. It offers staff from the sector the chance to get inspired by keynote speakers, learn from experts in the sector, and connect with colleagues old and new.

Here’s what you can expect at this year’s event.

Explore the pressing issues in education

The theme of this year’s conference is Levelling Up – an issue that has been high on the government agenda and the topic of much debate.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis have made tackling inequality even more challenging. The conference will look at how we can ensure equal opportunities, and the role the further education and skills sector can play in this.

Our panel sessions will explore some of the key questions relating to Levelling Up. The first session will discuss ‘Levelling up communities’. Opportunities being available throughout the country is crucial to Levelling Up – if talented individuals have to move away from their local area in order to access opportunities elsewhere, what happens to the community they leave behind? The panel will provide a range of perspectives on this topic, informed by their backgrounds in education, research, public service, and skills regeneration.

In the afternoon, our second panel session will focus on ‘Levelling up the sector’. Here, the focus will switch to how our sector can address the needs of all learners. High-profile and important voices from the education sector will talk about how we can ensure that all learners are able to access the provision and support that is right for them.

This year’s keynote address will be delivered by Robert Halfon MP, Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education. Robert was previously Minister of State at the Department for Education from July 2016 to June 2017, and was Co-Chairman and then Vice Chairman of the Further Education, Skills and Life-Long Learning All-Party Parliamentary Skills Group.

This will be a unique address, specific to the Skills and Education Group, so you won’t want to miss it.

Hear from sector leaders

This year’s conference brings together national leaders from across the sector, key decision makers and government officials to discuss the latest issues facing the UK. Join us on the day to hear from our speakers as they share their thoughts on a range of pressing issues.

Find out more about some of our speakers below.

Paul Joyce HMI, Deputy Director – Further Education and Skills, Ofsted – Paul joined Ofsted as HMI in 2005 having previously worked within the further education and skills sector in both general and specialist further education colleges.

Immediately before working for Ofsted, Paul was a consultant for the former Department for Education and Skills and worked on national initiatives supporting improvements to teaching and learning.

Paul has significant inspection experience in both the schools and further education and skills remits and, prior to being appointed Deputy Director, was a Senior HMI with responsibility for the college inspection programme nationally.

You can hear from Paul at our ‘Levelling up the sector’ panel session at the conference.

Rob Nitsch CBE, Delivery Director, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) – Rob is a widely experienced leader who has held board-level directorships in skills-based education and training, engineering, operational delivery, and personnel.

At the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, he has played a leading role in establishing the Institute as the employer voice in apprenticeships and technical qualifications in England, whilst overseeing the successful implementation of standards-based apprenticeships, T Levels and Higher Technical Qualifications.

In his previous role he was the Army’s Personnel Director, where his achievements included the opening of combat roles to women; the maximising talent programme; and managing the impact of low recruitment.

Rob will also be part of our ‘Levelling up the sector’ panel.

Shelagh Legrave CBE DL, FE Commissioner, Department for Education – Shelagh Legrave was appointed Further Education Commissioner in March 2021 and took up the role on 1 October. Prior to that, Shelagh was Chief Executive of Chichester College Group for eleven and a half years, which during that time merged with Crawley and Worthing colleges. She also opened Haywards Heath College. Chichester College achieved Outstanding from Ofsted in 2014 and Outstanding for the Group in 2020. She was appointed an OBE in 2015, a Deputy Lieutenant in the same year and a CBE in 2021. She also chairs Stonepillow, a charity for homeless people in West Sussex.

You can hear from Shelagh at our ‘Levelling up the sector’ panel session.

To view our full lineup of speakers, visit the conference website.

Be inspired by our special guest

Will Njobvu, TV and Radio Host, Capital XTRA – Will Njobvu is a TV and radio presenter whose infectious personality and talent for broadcasting has earned him numerous credits.

Will hosts both the Saturday Breakfast Show and Sunday afternoons on Capital XTRA and covers the Entertainment Presenter role on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. He has also hosted The Masked Singer: Unmasked and Life After Love Island: UNTOLD.

He talks openly about how he has negotiated his way through being a young, gay, black man in the UK today. As a champion of the LGBT community, Will is passionate about the importance of being comfortable with your identity and taking care of your mental health; as he too has overcome depression in the past.

Join us at the conference to hear Will share his inspiring journey and explore what it takes to become a more inclusive and just society.

In the meantime, you can also hear from Will on the Skills and Education Group’s Let’s Go Further podcast. In the first episode of Series 2, he spoke about the need for greater diversity and representation in schools and colleges as well as in the workplace. You can listen to the conversation here.

Learn new things in interactive workshops

All attendees will have the opportunity to attend two workshops at the conference, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

These are a great way to learn about new topics and gain fresh ideas to apply in your job role. The workshops are delivered by experienced trainers from a variety of fields and are a stimulating and enjoyable way to enhance your professional development.

Here are some of the sessions you can choose from.

Leading through Strengths – This workshop will focus on some of the key concepts around leadership and how individuals can use their strengths more intentionally, helping them to effectively meet their goals, improve career prospects and overcome challenges.

The workshop will be delivered by Hannah Miller, Founder and Director of Sidekick. Hannah has worked in the education sector as a teacher, senior leader of education (teacher training) and as an Assistant Headteacher. More recently, Hannah has worked as a qualified coach and mentor for five years. As a CliftonStrengths coach, Hannah helps people understand and utilise their strengths in order to perform at their best.

Supporting the Mental Health of Staff and Learners – This workshop will provide an opportunity to promote the importance of mental health and wellness through a variety of useful techniques and strategies. It will also show the impact of a range of concepts that are being implemented across the sector to support both staff and learners.

This workshop will be facilitated by Kim Rutherford, a psychotherapist, coach and corporate trainer with a career spanning over a decade in corporate business at a senior level. Kim’s understanding of and experience in mental health spans more than three decades, and, after her own personal experiences of mental health concerns, Kim retrained and created her own 8WiseTM Wellness Programme.

Work Ready for Decent Work – This workshop will highlight the importance of raising awareness of workers’ rights to help eliminate labour exploitation. Background will be given about the Level 1 Award in Workers’ Rights and Labour Exploitation, developed by the Skills and Education Group and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, and how it is now having a positive impact in helping individuals and local communities.

During the workshop, delegates will hear from the Fashion and Textiles Association (FTA), who were a flagship education provider in introducing and embedding the qualification into their curriculum.

This session will be delivered by Frank Hanson, Head of Prevention and Partnerships at the GLAA, and Jackie Bertram, Deputy CEO of Fashion Enter.

Discover new connections and opportunities

The conference will also include regular opportunities for networking and browsing our exhibition. A wide variety of organisations from the education sector and related fields will be in attendance to showcase their services.

Here are some of the companies you can expect to see on the day.

The Skills Network – Headline Sponsor. The Skills Network is an award-winning e-learning training provider, delivering high-quality educational content and resources through expertly developed technology. Formed in Yorkshire in 2009, The Skills Network is the UK’s largest provider of e-learning experiences. It upskills more than 35,000 learners in the UK alone each year and supports over 5,000 organisations and 500 colleges and independent training providers in delivering distanced learning courses, staff training and apprenticeship programmes.

As well as being part of our exhibition, The Skills Network will also be delivering a workshop on ‘Online Learning: nice to have or an essential part of the skills ecosystem?’ Facilitated by Mark Dawe, CEO, this will look at how online and blended learning drive improvements in efficiency, quality and accessibility.

Lightcast – Digital Content Sponsor. Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass) is the world’s leading authority on job skills, workforce talent, and labour market dynamics. They work with over 100 education providers and economic development agencies to help them understand skills demand in relation to key agendas such as Skills for Jobs and Levelling Up.

Lightcast will deliver a workshop at the conference on ‘Using LMI (labour market insights) to articulate intent’. This session will focus on how Hull College Group is using Lightcast data to understand local and regional skills gaps and tailor their curriculum strategy accordingly. It will be facilitated by Karla Hoff from Lightcast and Lynette Leith, Vice Principal Quality at Hull College Group.

FE Tech – Registration and Merchandise Sponsor. FE Tech is the UK’s only website designed to help further education providers find the right learning technology solutions that are designed for our industry. The organisation is a community of learning technology product comparison, latest news and trends from industry expert voices which is meaningful for the sector.

We also have a wide range of exhibitors joining us at the conference. You can view all of them on the conference webpage.

Book your place

Our conference promises to be an enjoyable and fascinating day focused on the key issues affecting further education. We hope you will join us.

The Skills and Education Group Conference 2023 takes place on Tuesday 23 May at the Leicester Marriott hotel. Visit our conference website for the full event details, videos from last year’s event, and to book your place.

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