The aim of this group is to achieve an evidence-based understanding of the current position of skills in the region and to advocate for system changes which will address major gaps. 

The Group works with local education authorities and providers and is focusing on three priorities:

  • Career Education in Schools - it is imperative that young people get the best possible education about career opportunities available to them, particularly in their local area, and the various pathways they can take.
  • Apprenticeships and Training - apprenticeships create a school-to-industry pipeline enabling students to simultaneously earn qualifications, gain experience, and get paid work.
  • Digital Skills - the pandemic has transformed and accelerated the use of technology in the way businesses and academic institutions operate.

Gareth John: Chair, Skills Project Group. Chief Executive, First Intuition

Gareth John is Chief Executive of First Intuition, the accountancy training provider who are based on Hills Road in Cambridge and operate in other locations across East Anglia. Gareth has been involved in professional education since qualifying as a Chartered Accountant 25 years ago and has strong relationships with the major UK accountancy awarding bodies such as ICAEW, AAT, ACCA and CIMA.

In the last few years Gareth has been heavily involved in the roll-out of the accountancy apprenticeship standards (from level 2 to level 7) to the majority of his large and regular clients. He is a passionate advocate of the broad benefits these robust programmes bring to learners and their employers. Gareth is regularly involved in Apprenticeship policy discussions with ESFA, DfE, IFATE, CBI and many other key stakeholders.

In recent years Gareth has seen a significant trend towards a preference for school leaver programmes across many employers in the accountancy sector, a positive shift which has broadened recruitment diversity and improved access to the profession. The provision of good quality, employer-focused careers advice at school is something he believes very strongly in.

Gareth is now involved in the design and development of Post-Qualification Education programmes for finance professionals, covering rapidly emerging skills in Digital Technologies & Data Analytics as well as more traditional skills in Leadership & Management.

Gareth is a Council member of the ICAEW, a member of the CBI East of England Regional Council, a member of the ICAEW East of England Strategy Board and a Governor of Cambridgeshire Skills.

Project Group Members

  • Arm*: Khaled Benkrid, Director of Education and Research / Nicholas Sample, Senior Manager, Arm School Program
  • Anglia Ruskin University*: Jon Bouffler, Director of Learning Development Services
  • AstraZeneca*: Kim Hardman, UK Apprentice Programme Manager 
  • Aveva*: Charlotte Steggall, Early Careers and Talent Social Media Manager
  • Birketts*: Abigail Trencher, Partner & Head of Employment Law
  • Cambridge Assessment: Tim Oates, Group Director Assessment, Research & Development
  • Cambridge City Council: Jemma Little, Economic Development Manager
  • Cambridgeshire County Council: Jonathan Lewis, Service Director: Education 
  • Cambridge Regional College: Michelle Dowse, Deputy Principal
  • Cambridge University Hospitals*: Vanessa Anderson, Apprenticeship Programme Manager / Karen Clarke, Associate Director of Workforce
  • Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority: Fliss Miller, Senior Responsible Officer (Workforce & Skills) / Laura Guymer, Apprenticeship Levy Advisor
  • Careers and Enterprise Company: Daryl Keyworth, Regional Lead
  • The Crown Estate*: Deborah Clark, Community Investment Manager
  • Deloitte*: Dr Samuel Smithers, Executive, Financial Advisory
  • Frontier Developments*: Robert Senior, Head of Talent
  • Form the Future: Anne Bailey, Co-Founder and Director
  • Growth Works: Gareth Preece, Managing Director for Skills
  • Hill Group* / Women into Construction CIC: Shelley Lawrence, Project Manager
  • Huntingdonshire District Council: Paul Gibbons, Economic Development Officer
  • Jagex*: Michael Williams, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist
  • Marshall of Cambridge*: Christopher Walkinshaw, Group Corporate Communications Director
  • Mick George*: Stuart Costello, Marketing Director
  • Mills and Reeve*: Sandy Boyle, Head of HR
  • Morgan Sindall*: Helen Clements, Community Investment Advisor 
  • Mott MacDonald*: Rosie Lugg, Education Advisor
  • One Nucleus: Tony Jones, CEO
  • Socius Development Ltd*: Joel Colthart, Project Manager
  • Swavesey Village College: Andrew Daly, Principal
  • University of Cambridge*: Alastair Currie, Public Affairs Co-ordinator / Jon Datta, Deputy Head of Widening Partnership
  • Urban & Civic*: Rebecca Britton, Communications, Communities and Partnerships
  • Volac*: Mary-Rose Gavin, Learning and Development Manager
  • Wellcome Sanger Institute*: Julia Wilson, Associate Director

* Member/Member organisation

Cambridge Ahead:

  • Jane Paterson-Todd, CEO
  • Dan Thorp, Director of Policy and Programmes
  • Matilda Becker, Policy Officer

Career Insight Videos

The Skills Group is passionate about the importance of young people getting the best possible education regarding the career opportunities available to them and the various pathways they can take into work.

In order to support this objective, raise career aspirations and broaden horizons for young people, we have produced a series of careers videos for use in schools and colleges across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. 

These feature young people from across a range of sectors from with Cambridge Ahead membership organisations and beyond.

Latest News & Insights


07761 511 766


Sarah Brereton, Director, Limewash
07796 583 223

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