Warm tributes paid to ‘doyenne’ of the employability and skills sector Janette Faherty

Fond tributes have been paid to Janette Faherty OBE, a “doyenne” of the employability and skills sector who has died after a short illness.

The founder of Avanta Enterprise Ltd, which provided welfare-to-work and skills training services across the UK, was aged 67.

Ms Faherty started her company in 1983 as TNG, but it became Avanta after a merger in 2006. It employed over 800 staff and delivered outsourced government services in employment, vocational skills and enterprise.  Avanta was later acquired by Staffline, a national recruitment and outsourcing organisation, for £65.5 million in May 2014.

James Clements Smith, managing director of employability and skills provider Prevista, where Ms Faherty was also a board member, had known her for almost 20 years.

He said: “Janette was an inspirational leader, she never compromised her belief that women entrepreneurs could be that: women.

“Janette was an inspiration to me personally and professionally and helped me shape my thoughts and direction for my business; she was selfless in that respect.”

Her friend Helen Richardson, managing director of traineeships, and employability provider Workpays, described her as a “doyenne” of the industry, who still “knew everyone’s names and cared about their opinions”. 

“Her gentle style encouraged us to share our thoughts and follow through on our ambitions,” she added.

Ms Faherty, who died last Friday of cancer, was widely praised for dedicating her career to the sector, gaining an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list 2010, for services to unemployed people and entrepreneurship.

Born in 1949, Ms Faherty was educated at Ellesmere Port Grammar School.

She gained an honours degree in politics and modern history at Manchester University, and went on to achieve a master’s degree in philosophy at Brunel University.

As well as her role as chief executive and founder of Avanta, she was one of the founding members of the Institute of Employability Professionals, the professional association for the employability profession, and its chair from 2011.

From 2012, she served as a director of the Digital Youth Academy, which offered training programmes in digital marketing and social media skills and a trustee of My Bnk, a charity that delivers financial education and enterprise workshop. 

Fran Parry, managing director at employability and skills consultancy Bright Sparks, described Ms Faherty as a ‘friend, colleague and mentor”.

She said: “She was a generous giver of time; taking the view that ‘ if you ask a busy woman’ the job is most likely to get done.

“She was constantly available with good advice and was always free with her introductions to her remarkable contacts list.”

She added: “She was the consummate networker. Janette more than deserved her OBE and the sector was delighted to reflect in some of the glory of that honour.”

Friends and colleagues of Ms Faherty are working in her memory to develop an annual Janette Faherty OBE, Award for Entrepreneurship in Employability & Skills. 

Sponsored  by education and employment organisation Workpays and Prevista,  the award will be for made to a new business set up to provide education, skills or employability which operates against a strong set of values to meet the needs of its customers. 

Ms Faherty’s family has set up a just giving page and ask that instead of flowers, donations could be made to the North London Hospice:

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