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Getting the message out about West Berkshire Training Consortium

A Q&A with Craig Mincher, the new executive director of the ‘incredible’ West Berkshire Training Consortium.

Tell us all little bit about yourself.

First and foremost I am a husband and father, I have three amazing children who are doing their very best to speed up my ageing process. We have a wide range of ages, four, nine and 16, all of whom believe they are older than they are, but our only daughter, Annabelle, aged four, rules the roost with a silver tongue.

I grew up in a military family, my dad was in the RAF, uncles in the Parachute Regiment and my granddad was a lieutenant colonel, so it was natural this is where I would start.

Craig Mincher
Craig Mincher

The military upbringing led to me having a great and varied childhood including living in Cyprus, although I am actually Scottish, moving around in my formative years has left me without a discernible accent, which is a shame.

The family spend most of our time at the stables which is great for the kids to be running free (feral) and learning to care for the horses. Although, 95 per cent of the time it is my wife or I who do the laborious jobs!

What skills and experience do you bring to this role and to WBTC as a whole?

I have worked in every iteration of a further education establishment from an FE college, third sector and highly commercial independent training providers.

I aim to bring the strengths from each to further WBTC; the community focus of an FE college, purpose-driven culture of the third sector, and the commercial drive of the private sector.

Often, I join organisations that require a significant turnaround, so to be able to join WBTC, which is firmly on the front foot means we can build from a solid foundation… and is frankly a joy.

I am amazed at the length some of the team have been in place, our longest is 27 years and a large number with more than 10 years service. This gives me added drive to grow WBTC so we can further develop the opportunities for our colleagues.

Why do you think an organisation like WBTC is so important for young people in West Berkshire?

We provide high-quality apprenticeships, not just to young people but also for those who are looking to further their career.

We also offer an alternative to the local colleges with our study programmes, adult education and multiply contracts.

We will work with individuals that other providers often won’t. Seeing people who have been turned away elsewhere achieve really helps drive the social mobility of the local area and gives people that start they needed to realise their ambitions.

This year is our 40th year in operation and the amount of people I have spoken to locally who have told me they have studied at WBTC in that time has been incredible. It happens often, which is unsurprising given that we have trained over 20,000 people in that time.

What does WBTC bring to businesses in the area too?

We work closely with employers to understand what they are looking to achieve and map our training accordingly, we want our programmes to have a distinct benefit to the organisation and individual.

We also build bespoke commercial programmes for employers, an employer comes to us with a need and we build a programme together providing a quick and sharp impact.

The proof, I suppose, is in the pudding, our achievement rate is over 20 per cent above the national average.

Where most providers are seeing a significant drop in achievement we are growing ours, which is down to the incredible teams at WBTC.

What one message would you like the public to know about WBTC?

We are here and we are very, very good at what we do!

We are working to improve our voice in the local area; we have been so focused on delivering the training we haven’t really shouted our successes from the rooftop, we need to do both.

More businesses and people will benefit from working with WBTC so we need to get the message out.

As a charity our drive is to enhance the social mobility of the individual and help businesses grow, we need to be fiscally responsible and commercially minded, but we do not need to drive for high profit margins which often limits investment in the training an individual receives. We can invest more per programme and offer more added value options than others in the sector.

What are your plans for WBTC for the rest of this year? And beyond?

As we have a solid foundation we will be focusing on growing our three core pillars – apprenticeships, funded training and our commercial offer. We will be looking at what apprenticeships we are delivering and if that still meets the needs of the local area, so I would love to hear from the local business community to help shape our offer.

I am also keen for us to identify more funding options so we can support people changing careers or the long-term out of work.

We are also looking into creating a new special education needs provision as we have noticed an increase in individuals that require additional support to achieve.

We are also organising an event to celebrate our 40th year and a separate graduation event for all of our learners who have completed their apprenticeships this year.

A very busy year ahead.

The future offers more opportunities, the party conferences identified a number of ways the skills landscape will change in the coming years and we will be planning to be ready to adapt to best support local people and businesses.

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