new_years_meme.jpgAt the close of a year, it’s customary to look back and remember the important moments that have shaped us: the breathtaking highs, the blistering lows, the moments of pure joy and unbearable pain that mark us for times to come. And 2017 brought with it a host of occurrences that stumbled across TQUK’s stage and made themselves heard loud and clear.

Often, retrospection can offer opportunities for sober reflections on one’s actions and how one can be better going forward...

Except not for us!!

TQUK, in 2017, went from strength to strength, and when we look back on last year, it’s pretty much all sunshine and puppies!

But there were moments that certainly stood out, that defined our year more than others. But, where to start...

1. The creation of TQUK Hong Kong

Look, we don’t want to brag, but after nary four years of operation, TQUK established a hub in Hong Kong.

Since its inception earlier this year, TQUK–HK has been responsible for overseeing our operations in Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan, promoting the value of British qualifications overseas and extending our world-class customer service. The fabulous members of the HK team have also provided invaluable insights into the region and how TQUK can best penetrate the market.

TQUK–HK is in the safe and trustworthy hands of Dr. Patrick Chui. He and his crack team in Hong Kong are currently delivering TQUK qualifications and endorsed courses to training providers, colleges and universities.

TQUK–HK will be our beachhead in Asia. And we’re not going to stop there.

2. ESFA Approval for EPAO

Those of you who follow our blog or social media feeds will know how much time and effort TQUK has poured into this topic.

2017 was the year when the government began to roll out its long-proposed reforms to how apprenticeships are delivered.

Among the many changes proposed were alterations to funding (via a new levy), the replacement of the old frameworks with new standards and a complete overhaul of how apprenticeship training is assessed for quality.

These new changes presented a new opportunity TQUK couldn’t pass up. We’d spent years in the further education sector creating, verifying and providing awards, certificates and diplomas. TQUK, after all, is industry recognised for its dedication to quality. Assessing apprentices was the next logical step. TQUK put in an application to be an End-Point Assessment Organisation early 2017 and received approval from the ESFA in April, providing TQUK with the go-ahead to begin building a roster of assessors that would criss-cross the country doling out assessments on the young apprentices of the land.

End-Point Assessment is a particularly huge overhaul of the apprenticeship system. Assessments of apprenticeships now occur at the end of a programme rather than through the method of ‘continuous assessment’.

And TQUK is now an End-Point Assessment Organisation, here we are exclusively able to deliver this vital and necessary service to employers and training providers.

Check another one in our column.

3. TQUK/CIEH Event in London

After weeks of planning, TQUK partnered with the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health to host an event at the Kingsway Hall Hotel in London to discuss the overarching future view of the Hospitality & Catering and Environmental Health sectors.

The event provided training centres with a wealth of knowledge about what the future of the sector would (or should) look like and TQUK was stoked to be hosting this event with CIEH in a united front.

It was a great opportunity to mingle with so many quality training providers to discuss a very important sector to the future of Britain.

4. The 2017 General Election

Any election is important, but the general election of 2017 carried some particular weight for TQUK along with the whole of the FE sector. With the election of the Cameron government in 2015, there were assumptions that sector policy would remain stable for the proceeding few years. The referendum of June 2016 upended a lot of those assumptions and threw into doubt what further education policy would look like. What would Brexit mean for the skills plan? Is a Labour government a possibility? Would funding be overhauled again, or reduced? Uncertainty seemed to be the tagline of 2017.

While the results of the election ended up having little direct result on the company, it kept us all guessing what would happen next.

5. Office Move

TQUK’s proud to be born and bred in Cadishead, Manchester. Our first two offices, 62 and 84 respectively, were charming fixer-upper offices that incubated our business in its infancy.

But as TQUK grew in size, we knew we needed to make a move to somewhere bigger and better.

Thus our pilgrimage to Dunham House in Sale. The office is slick, stacked and spacious, the perfect home for the company we are and the one we will become.

To commemorate the move, we threw up posters on the walls of our office values, inspirational quotes chosen by our illustrious leader and gorgeous graphics to match the look TQUK wants to adopt. We have officially arrived.

6. New Staff

While we’ve had some departures, one of the most exciting parts of TQUK’s year has been the arrivals gate. As the company grows, we’ve been taking on some fabulous talent.

Among the most exciting additions to the TQUK team was Kelle McQuade, our new Lead Business Development Manager, who crisscrosses the country drumming up new business. Kelle was then joined by Elsa Nealy, our new Business Development Officer, scheduling meetings and making things happen.

Another higher-up on the list was the acquisition of Alex Davies as our new EPA Coordinator, who’s heading up our new team in charge of overseeing the delivery of our EPA services.

This year also marked the happy return of Laura Sharkey. Laura used to work for TQUK as one of our very successful Business Development Managers before taking some well-earned time off. But earlier this year she returned to us as our brand new Marketing and Development Officer.

Other prime inclusions include Sam Nightingale, our EQA Coordinator, Matt Garrod, our Business Development Officer, Roisin Maguire and Holly Kowalski-Hicks, Business Support Officers, Kit Jenkin, Website and Marketing Officer, and our latest addition Jana Jassova, our HR Officer.

We have no doubt that these incredibly handsome people will take our business to new heights.

7. TQUK International Conference

Our expansion all over the world continues.

TQUK-HK arranged the first TQUK International Conference held in Hong Kong, attended by over 60 TQUK approved training centres along with officials from the Department of International Trade Technical and Vocational Education and Training.

The energy and spirit of the conference were informed by the One Belt, One Road policy devised under the regime of China’s President Xi Jinping. This project will effectively be a giant infrastructure project that will include roads, dams, bridges, sea lanes and ports linking Europe, Russia and the Middle East with East, South, Southeast and East Asia. In order for this project to become a reality, the country will need skilled workers on a massive scale.

This conference gave TQUK the opportunity to establish itself as a prime mover of British qualifications in manufacturing, engineering and other areas.

8. All our new standard applications

EPA, as the newest part of our business, has the potential to equal the amount of business we do as an Awarding Organisation. In a short time, the size of our company could almost double. In order for this to happen, we need to expand our capacity to deliver assessments to as many of the new apprenticeship standards.

We began our EPA journey by getting approval to deliver assessment for five of the newly created apprenticeship standards: Adult Care Worker, Lead Adult Care Worker, Commis Chef, Hospitality Team Member and Hospitality Supervisor.  Once we found our feet, we applied for approval to deliver assessment for five more: Hair Professional, Customer Service Practitioner, Business Administrator, Team Leader/Supervisor and Operations/Departmental Manager.

TQUK’s years of experience in qualification assessment perfectly places us to deliver assessment of apprenticeships, and we’re stoked to be working with employers and training providers across the country to deliver this vital service which ensures the assessment of apprenticeships

And as we move into the future, our list of standards will only grow.

9. FAB Awards

In autumn, the good news for TQUK just kept coming.

The Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) notified TQUK that we’d been nominated for two 2017 FAB Awards.

The FAB Awards are a yearly awards ceremony that recognises the excellent performance of the individuals or organisations in the awarding sector.

Kelly Venter, our long-standing Business Development Officer, was nominated for Individual of the Year for her excellent performance in our office.

And TQUK as an organisation was nominated for Awarding Organisation of the Year, along with several other High profile competitors.

To receive nominations from the FAB Awards for three consecutive years is a testament to the growth that TQUK has achieved and the hard work that the team has put in to put TQUK in the position we now find ourselves. We are incredibly proud to have been nominated and hope to continue to do so.

10. HIT apprentices passed

The end of the year marked a very special milestone for TQUK.

TQUK currently works with HIT Training to deliver the assessment of their apprentices. Hannah Holden, of The Curve Theatre in Leicester, and Chris Wilcox, from The Grove Hertfordshire, both passed the assessment for, and completed the apprenticeship in, the Hospitality Team Member Standard, making them the first hospitality apprentices on that particular standard to complete their programmes under the new apprenticeship standards.

The success of these apprentices, and by extension the success of HIT and our assessors, marks an important milestone for TQUK. We have arrived as a major player on the EPA stage faster and with more success than many of our competitors.

And we don’t plan on standing still.

TQUK will replicate this success in the future with other employers and training providers, offering the best EPA on the market. As I type this, the boffins in our office are hammering out applications for more apprenticeship standards. We’re only getting started.

2017 has been a great year. 2018 will prove a bit more challenging, we’re sure. Holding and consolidating our footing in the EPA sector will take resources and constant vigilance, and opportunities that we are pursuing around the globe, from Europe to Asia, Africa to North America, will present many challenges.

But we’re ready to roll up our sleeves. 2018, here we come!