Babington Group has been recognised as Further Education Provider of the Year by EducationInvestor magazine. Awards were judged by a panel of 26 industry experts, and others nominated in the category included 3aaa, learndirect and Lifetime Training.
The award comes after six years of extraordinary success for us, following investment from Bridges Ventures in 2009.
The UK economy is still struggling to recover due to the skills gap in many sectors, with one in five job vacancies going unfilled. While employment levels are on the rise, there is an increasing recognition of the need for employers to avoid future shortages by providing better opportunities for training and development.
Employment among 16-24 year olds still lags behind pre-economic crisis levels, and over 940,000 young people are currently classified as ‘NEET’ (not in education, employment, or training). That’s 13% of all 16-24 year-olds.
An innovative solution
Apprenticeships offer an effective solution to this problem. They help employers nurture the skills they need to flourish in their sectors, and allow young people to kick-start successful careers.
Founded in 1974, Babington offers apprenticeships in a growing number of sectors, from financial services to health and social care. We are a pioneer, having offered the first accountancy apprenticeship in the country, and the first insurance apprenticeship in the north of England.
The group is steered by Chairman Frank Lord who, with a passion for people development, has a history of helping businesses grow. Carole Carson, the Group’s CEO, joined the Babington Board of Directors in March 2011, and leads the group in the achievement of operational and strategic business objectives.
Bridges first invested in 2009 through our Sustainable Growth Fund II. Led by Bridges partner Grant Turley, a total of 4.2m has been invested so far. This allowed us to strengthen the senior management team and board, and the proven model was scaled through organic growth and acquisitions. The Bridges team, with their previous experience in buy-and-build, helped management identify and execute the acquisitions of Training for Today and the National Centre for Strategic Leadership, and supported the subsequent integration.
They worked with the management team to identify and capture key performance indicators, such as proportion of students from underserved areas of the UK, number of job-seeker benefit claimants trained by Babington, number of previously unemployed students now in employment, and number of employees at Babington who were formerly unemployed.
These measures of success initiated the development of new areas of the business, including an Employability division to support people into fruitful employment, an Advice and Guidance team to enable more focus on learner engagement, and an Ecommerce department to make more effective and accessible learning methods a possibility.
Chief Executive Officer Carole Carson explains, “Babington was a great business for Bridges to invest in, having a solid emphasis on delivering quality training and learning solutions. The support from Bridges has enabled us to grow our brand and reach more learners by supporting them through key government programmes of either apprenticeships or traineeships. Babington continues to be a pioneer through our innovative approaches by delivering a blended learning solution. With the investment and expertise from Bridges, this has enabled us to reach more individuals by utilising the social media platforms.”
An impressive impact
Since investment, Babington has had over 30,000 learners, and helped over 3,000 formerly unemployed people to find jobs. We now work with over 2,100 employers to source and support talent, and in 2015 we trained over 1,600 16-18 year-olds at risk of becoming NEET, with nearly two thirds of total students coming from underserved areas of the UK.
Babington’s revenue has grown eight-fold since investment from Bridges. We have maintained a high quality service throughout our growth, continuing to display high levels of student satisfaction (five out of five), with 93% citing overall satisfaction against a national benchmark of 85%. Alongside this, we have achieved an employer satisfaction rate of 92%, against a national benchmark of 74%.
As the business has grown, we have been able to provide more employment opportunities directly, recruiting 66 of our own students, with 13% of our total workforce having previously been registered unemployed.