Successful skills dinner proves that Colleges Mean Business

1 May 2015

A new prospectus aimed at helping the 76,000 businesses based here in the South East Midlands access and work with the area’s 10 Further Education Colleges has been launched at a high profile Skills Celebration Dinner.

Over 150 businesses and partners gathered at the high profile skills event this week for the launch of ‘Colleges Mean Business’, a prospectus co-ordinated by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) which summarises the ability and desire of our local colleges to deliver skills essential for business growth across the area.

At the event, held at Woburn Abbey’s Sculpture Gallery, guests were also invited to complete pledge cards and commit to ways in which they could each boost skills in the area. Pledges made on the night included a commitment to recruit more apprentices and to build closer relationships with local colleges.

Dr Ann Limb OBE DL, Chair of SEMLEP, said: “This event and the launch of ‘Colleges Mean Business’ reinforces the benefits to all growing businesses of engaging with a local college, whether it be finding new talent or upskilling staff, with product research and marketing, with the recruitment of apprentices or as a means to accessing fantastic facilities.

“SEMLEP’s recent business survey found that over a third of South East Midlands businesses have skills gaps within their existing workforce and nearly two thirds have found it difficult to recruit, so addressing the skills agenda is vital to our economy.”

Launching ‘Colleges Mean Business’ Dr Julie Mills, Principal of Milton Keynes College, told guests: “We are delighted to be launching this joint prospectus and now want to hear from businesses to better understand your business needs and how we can help you meet them.”

Ali Hadawi, Principal of Central Bedfordshire Council, added: “Colleges have moved on and we now aim to create the offer, the training and qualifications that fit business needs, so hopefully when you recruit a graduate from one of our colleges you won’t have to spend any more money training them to do the job.”

At the event, made possible thanks to funding from the European Social Fund and Skills Funding Agency*, eight bite-sized videos, commissioned by SEMLEP, were played, designed to highlight some of the barriers that individuals and companies have overcome together with the business benefits of investing in skills.

The celebration of skills continues this week with tomorrow’s [29th April 2015) Business Expo 3.0 South East Midlands at Woburn Abbey, which is set to attract over 2,500 businesses and will include a series of skills themed workshops and interactive sessions to enable businesses to think more creatively about how education, training and apprenticeships can support business growth.

Skills advisers from SEMLEP’s Velocity business support programme will run free workshops and will be on hand to provide one to one advice and support to businesses and training providers.

View our Colleges Mean Business prospectus HERE.


* The skills celebration is funded by the European Social Fund and Skills Funding Agency as part of the Skills Support for the Workforce Programme, delivered through Exemplas Ltd.


  • Exemplas helps organisations to change, grow and prosper by delivering advice, support, information and training solutions to employers and individuals. Exemplas offers advice and support in Enterprise and Innovation; Leadership and Management; Diversity and Social Responsibility and Skills.
  • The Exemplas Group also has an extensive record of successful public sector contract management.  We work in partnership with our public sector clients to maximise the impact of funding and deliver robust accountable value for money at strategic and tactical levels.