Industry Mentor

Alun Rogers is on the Steering Group for Learning Futures and is an industry mentor to the projects. He is passionate about ‘line of sight to work’ and discusses some of his ideas and successes.

Learning Futures is delighted that Alun is presenting the Line of Sight to Work free webinar on Monday, 27th April, at 2pm. Please register here.

AlunAlun is a director and co-founder of risual— an IT services and consultancy organisation specialising in Microsoft Solutions. It was established in May 2005 and employs over 100 people. The company has just launched the risual Academy at Stafford College to train at least 20 apprentices a year to be employed and developed by risual into highly skilled ICT professionals.

Alun brings a strong employer focus to the Learning Futures steering group. He also brings a passion around ‘line of sight to work’ with a conviction that the direction of travel should be from industry towards education and training. “I have a genuine interest in education,” he says, “but as an employer with a purely commercial background, that gives me a different perspective to everyone else on the steering group.”

In order to clarify his views on the nature of the relationship between education and business, he considers what the starting point would be if FE didn’t exist. We would, he argues, start with employers: “It’s all about employment outcomes. Further education is first and foremost about skills and employment, with education an important part of the process.”

“If you can get the right people into the right jobs with the right skills, you’ve given people the best possible start”

He knows that driving education and training closer to business isn’t solely the responsibility of the sector: “Lots of businesses don’t see the value in business and education/training engagements. But there is huge value and somebody has to make the first move.” risual made that move with its local college, Stafford, and Alun is keen to get the message out that the arrangement works for everybody—for businesses, for colleges, for students, and for communities.

risual’s annual recruitment bill is in excess of £300K p.a. because they need qualified people and have to use agencies. A solution was to partner with the local FE college: “risual made a £50K investment in Stafford College, providing the college with a refurbished space, new equipment and a direct connection to industry. This relationship allows both risual and industry to get the apprentices they need, and the apprentices to take the first step in their career– a good career—in a growing industry. They start at the adult minimum wage—double the apprentice wage—and in 2-3 years will be the highly skilled professionals that risual and the economy needs.”

The risual Academy was launched earlier this year and is the result of college and business being willing to listen to each other, be open to new ideas, and to act decisively. Alun believes that the meeting of minds between risual and Stafford College was helped by the fact that both the principal and the business development director had run their own businesses and were “very commercial” in their outlook. He describes a series of four meetings with a total duration of less than eight hours that moved his idea from concept to agreement to business plan.

It wasn’t his first attempt at partnering with the sector. “I’ve been involved with lots of colleges,” he says, “but we quickly realised we were after a methodology that wasn’t part of the normal curriculum. We needed a discussion about our needs as an employer and about employment outcomes. Our apprentices are likely to earn more than their peers, and for us to be able to give this to individuals as young as sixteen is something we’re proud of. It’s about giving young people opportunities to become highly skilled in industry and to develop into well paid professionals.”

Colleges, he says, need to know their business metrics: “We’re creating 20-40 jobs a year and, within 2-3 years, they will be earning more than the average salary.” Risual are keen to help colleges develop relevant curricula that support their needs. Alun knows that what they are doing is supporting their business and their industry, and he’s willing to keep investing money to carry on achieving this.

“Our story,” he says, “is one we are proud to tell.” risual is already working with other local technology businesses to expand the Academy and have been approached by another employer following the launch publicity. “I know,” he says, “that what we’re doing is an alternative take on the usual education system; but if the effect on the sector and the economy is a positive one, we will work with the appropriate parties and its representatives to ensure change happens.”

Coll-Risual

Launch of risual Academy, Stafford College

Richard Proud, co-owner, risual
Beverley Smith, CEO & Principal, Stafford College
Chris Clifford, Director of new business at Stafford College
Alun Rogers, co-owner, risual
Clare Barclay, Small, Mid Market Solutions & Partners, Microsoft