As we return to work after the holidays, I’m delighted to report we are once again in the privileged position of beginning a new year as a thriving and highly effective business that reinvests in the industries we serve. We have award-winning qualifications amongst our extensive portfolio and an established reputation for quality and service amongst our customers. We can boast a united team with unrivalled industry expertise and experience of building long-standing partnerships. Initiatives like Trailblazers have given us opportunities to work more closely with employers and build an even better understanding of our customers. Against this backdrop 2016 looks set to be an exciting year for us.

That said the changing landscape of government policy in key areas like apprenticeships, FE college funding and the school curriculum means many of our partners will face some uncertainty and challenges in the coming months. So we’re gearing ourselves up to make sure we are there to support them.

For example the run up to the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2017 will see many employers exploring the implications for their business and their workforce. We’ll be keeping a close eye on developments and, along with our parent organisation Enginuity , we will be lobbying hard to defend the quality of industry apprenticeships and to push for the ring-fencing of all money raised by the levy in our sectors to be used to boost industry skills in the future. We strongly believe the focus of public spending on apprenticeships should be on sectors like ours where there is a real skills need and where the occupations demand high quality and extensive training over a significant period to master the skills required. These are all key areas we’ll be concentrating our efforts on throughout 2016.

Colleges are also facing change and we’re fully committed to supporting our Centres as they consider how to roll with these changes. Our Product Specialists and EQAs not only have an industry background, many of them have worked in colleges as well giving them a real understanding of how things work. So our services and support are designed with what’s needed for practical delivery in the classroom firmly in mind.    

Looking ahead we’ll maintain the high quality of our core offer, but also be fleet of foot and responsive to our customers’ evolving needs, providing support through our consultancy service offering bespoke skills and awarding solutions.   We’ll develop our service offer to continually meet our industries’ skills needs, including the introduction of an expert EAL Schools team. We’re already seeing rapid take-up of our new suite of KS4 and KS5 qualifications in schools across the country, particularly with the demise of the Design and Technology GCSE for which our award winning KS4 and KS5 qualifications offers an excellent alternative. Together with partnerships with organisations like F1 in Schools our goal is for EAL schools qualifications to help to boost the profile of vocational pathways, inspire young people and showcase the exciting opportunities that are out there in our sectors.

A new year always brings changes and for me that’s an exciting prospect, but whatever unfolds as this year progresses, our customers can be secure in the knowledge that EAL will remain closer to industry, offering qualifications which will always be relevant, robust and high quality in line with the needs of our sectors.

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