Visionnaires Chief Executive writes in London Business Matters

Pablo Lloyd is the chief executive of Visionnaires, the group’s social enterprise which helps more people turn their idea into a successful business. He has written a thought-provoking article in the latest edition of London Business Matters – the magazine of the London Chamber of Commerce – in which he debunks some common myths about entrepreneurs and what makes start-ups successful.

As he says in the article: “At Visionnaires, we’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and looked at the histories of many other start-ups. Analysing successful start-ups to see what they have in common is, like any fine recipe, an art not a science. However, with start-up failure rates over 80 per cent and our economy in need of a boost, here is a six-step start-up recipe which seems to work.”

You can find out for yourself what Pablo’s recipe for success is, by reading his article on the London Business Matters website – it’s on pages 50 and 51.

CCCG Becomes First to Offer Tuition-Free Coding Courses in the UK With Guaranteed Jobs

Capital City College Group has teamed up with 01Founders to launch the first tuition-free coding school in the UK to improve diversity in tech and bridge the digital skills gap. 01Founders is an innovative free coding school that is unusual because it does not feature teachers in the traditional sense. Instead, it is a peer-led project, supported by facilitators and the 01 Edu software to enable students to solve gamified projects at their own pace.

Students completing the two-year course will also be guaranteed a job at the end of the course as part of 01 Founders’ commitment to train 100,000 software engineers by 2030. 01 Founders is now accepting applications for its first London cohort of 250 students to start in October 2021.

CCCG is London’s largest college group and comprises City and Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College, the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London and Capital City College Training. Roy O’Shaughnessy, CEO of CCCG, said: “Capital City College Group is delighted to be a partner in this exciting new educational venture – a first for the UK.

“We were the pioneers of free further education courses in London and 01 Founders’ new coding school takes this concept to the next level. It will give anyone, regardless of their background, previous experience, or educational level the key coding and digital skills they will need to transform their career chances and their lives. The school is a real innovation in education and we are thrilled to be a part of it.”

01 Founders was co-founded by Brent Hobermann, the face behind online brands including lastminute.com and Made.com, and is backed by entrepreneurs, tech firms and educationalists.

The course is powered by 01 Edu, an internationally acclaimed pedagogy co-founded by Nicolas Sadiric, which has built similar coding schools with an alumni of more than 25,000 globally. Students complete core coding training for 18 months and then choose a specialism for the final six months from game development, artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

Joysy John, CEO of 01 Founders: “We believe that digital skills give you the ability to shape the world around you. But, for too long, women, ethnic minorities and those from low socio-economic backgrounds have been underrepresented in technology. 01 Founders is starting a nationwide movement that removes the barriers to job-ready technical training. It’s a coding school for ambitious individuals from every background, regardless of experience.”

Students are pre-selected based on a short cognitive test followed by a month-long selection process over the summer. Applicants must be over 18 by 1 September 2021. No previous experience or academic qualifications are required.

Find out more and apply on our 01 Founders page.

CCCG Help Enterpreneurs Build Sustainable Fashion Company

Entrepreneurs Nicolas and Julia Vendramin launched their new fashion company and website – labelld.com – on Saturday 1 May. We caught up with Nicolas before the launch, to talk about their venture, their story, the community they want to build, and the support and advice that Nicolas in particular received from Visionnaires and Capital City College Training, both part of Capital City College Group, along the way.

Hello Nicolas, tell us about LABELL-D, your new start-up. It’s a sustainable fashion company isn’t it? What does that mean to you and Julia?

“We have both worked in fashion for more than 15 years, but with LABELL-D, we feel that we have finally found our purpose in the industry.

“In my fashion career I worked for companies including Hugo Boss, Bally and Harrys of London, in a variety of finance and merchandising roles, but I also knew that the industry is very polluting in its nature, and I wanted to do something about that. We’ve always been passionate about sustainable living and about 12 months ago, we decided to set-up our own company to sell sustainable fashion. The idea had been in my mind for a few years, but two things really accelerated our thinking: the birth of our daughter two and a half years ago and the COVID pandemic.”

And that’s where Visionnaires, our social enterprise, and our training arm, Capital City College Training came in, isn’t it? How did we help you?

“To be honest, I can’t recall exactly how I found out about the programme called Start Up Step Up London, it provides workshops, mentoring and coaching to help start-up businesses get off the ground], but it was a real help to me.

“Because I’ve always worked in big companies, I guess I have always thought big too – ten steps ahead – but Wendy, my tutor, brought me down to earth and reminded me that a new business has to start from zero. She and the 6-week course that she taught was very pragmatic and helped me focus on the basics and get them right first. The course sessions took place before the COVID-19 lockdowns started and it was great to be able to learn in-person, with other entrepreneurs, rather than remotely.”

And then we put you in touch with a mentor didn’t we?

“Yes. We had a Visionnaires mentor matchmaking event where I met Oreste Maspes. Oreste is a fellow Italian and has experience in the fashion and textile industry, and has worked in the consumer electronics, document imaging and printing sectors too.

“We bonded straight away and, as part of the programme, I had 5 hours of one-to-one mentoring with him. Oreste is very strategic and analytical and he pushed us hard – really looking at the strengths and weaknesses of our proposition and our strategy.”

That sounds really good. And since then, you’ve been working hard to set the company and your website up?

“That’s right. We took a couple of days off over Easter and it was the first time we’ve had off in months! We now have a beta version of our website which has already had a few sales. We’ve been testing and getting feedback on the site and we are working on getting the user experience right – making changes so that buying through the website is a great experience for customers – and we’re launching to the public on 1 May.”

What sort of clothes do you offer?

“LABELL-D has garments from a wide range of great brands big and small including Acne Studios, Nike, R3unite, Ecoalf, Burberry, Stella McCartney, Patagonia and Gucci, with others coming on all the time. Our items are all sustainable in how they are produced and our collections include many items which have recycled, organic, bio-based and sustainably sourced materials.

“For example, the uppers of our Nike Space Hippie trainers are made from recycled plastic bottles, T-Shirts and yarn scraps, and our Patagonia beanie hats are Fair Trade Certified – which means that the people who sew them are paid a premium for their work – and they are made from a blend of recycled wool and recycled nylon.

“It’s wonderful to see the site taking shape and we are really excited for the launch. But beyond the launch, we want to do more. We want to build a community of customers who care as passionately as we do about the social and environmental performance of their clothes. We will inform and educate them about the actions that brands have taken on their road to sustainability and we’ll show our customers how the products we sell have been produced and certified. The website is labelld.com.”

Thank you Nicolas. It’s been great talking to you.

Start Up Step Up London is an entrepreneur training programme delivered by Capital City College Group’s training arm Capital City College Training in partnership with Visionnaires and co-funded by the European Social Fund and the Mayor of London. It brings together the capital’s vast business support offer into a single resource, giving entrepreneurs the tools to make their business idea a reality – find out more here.

Capital City College Group Contact Centre Wins Customer Service Award

Capital City College Group’s contact centre team has received an award for its “exceptional” customer service. The Omnichannel Experience Award 2020 was presented by Puzzel, the company that provides the customer service platform used by the Group.

The contact centre responds to around 8,000 enquiries a month, which increases significantly during the enrolment period between July and September.

Lenka Annan, Contact Centre Manager, said: “2020 has been an extraordinary year when the whole world has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite face-to-face restrictions, the contact centre has continued to use Puzzel to provide efficient remote frontline services to our students.

“During this time, we also enhanced the service with new features that have enabled the team to create and share comprehensive resources to provide an even more personal service when responding to enquiries.”

Puzzel is a cloud-based customer service system that enables contact centre staff to manage and respond to phone calls, online chat, SMS and social media enquiries.

CCCG was chosen by Puzzel to receive the award from 1,000 of the company’s customers across Europe after implementing the system in 2017.

Lenka added: “I would like to thank Puzzel for this award, and proudly hold it up as a mark of our continuous drive to provide a great service to everyone who contacts us.

“I would also like to express my thanks to my team of Learner Advisers for their dedication when handling enquiries, whatever the circumstances.”

CCCG’s implementation of Puzzel was recognised by an auditor during the Group’s reaccreditation for the matrix Standard in 2019, a quality mark for organisations providing information, advice and guidance.

Puzzel praised the Group for providing a “dependable, efficient customer service” and demonstrating best practice across all channels.

Jonathan Allan, Chief Marketing Officer at Puzzel, said “Capital City College Group are true leaders when it comes to providing exceptional omnichannel customer service.

“This past year they have demonstrated a deep understanding of their customers’ needs and have engaged a wide range of tools and channels to support students as they navigate this incredibly difficult time.

“Their flexibility and dependability have been absolutely first class and Puzzel is delighted to have been part of their journey.”

Visionnaires CEO calls for education and charity boards to show better governance of innovation

Visionnaires CEO Pablo Lloyd OBE has urged education and charity leaders to show better governance and innovation as the country moves out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an article for recruitment and leadership consultancy Gatenby Sanderson, Pablo shared his thoughts on how these sectors can continue to evolve after a hugely challenging year.

Pablo launched Visionnaires with Capital City College Group in 2019, a social enterprise to help aspiring entrepreneurs, having served as an executive and non-executive director on commercial and charity boards for 30 years.

In the article, he challenged boards to look at how well they govern innovation by, reviewing strategy, investing in innovation, gaining fresh perspective, collaborating and embracing diversity of experience. You can read the full article here.

Visionnaires finds its 200th graduate in Jay Patel’s Flavour Street

In February, Visionnaires celebrated their 200th graduate, Jay Patel, whose Flavour Street hospitality business is now set to break into a competitive London market. Visionnaires is a social enterprise helping entrepreneurs succeed in business. It is the brainchild of Pablo Lloyd, OBE, and was co-founded with Capital City College Group in 2018. The organisation provides mentors, training and guidance to people looking to start a new business, with programmes created by entrepreneurs providing practical tips and tools.

Jay Patel is new to the hospitality industry and applied to Visionnaires for a mentorship in order to develop key skills.

“I have always been a massive foodie,” says Jay, 29, who studied Economics at the City University of London and was a banker before his career change. “I have family in hospitality and I have always been around it, but had never really done anything about it.

“I was in banking and decided I wanted to try something different. I joined a friend’s start-up, which was then affected by COVID. Out of that, I had the idea for Flavour Street.”

Jay describes his new venture as a “marketplace for home cooks to come online and easily share their food with the local community.” Last year, research group Mintel predicted online food delivery to be “one of the only winners” of the pandemic.

“There is a lot of demand for home-cooked meals at the moment,” explains Jay. “But if you don’t live in Zone 1 or Zone 2, the choice of food gets smaller and smaller. It’s hard to get good quality food outside of central London. The Flavour Street platform lets people with a passion for cooking and furloughed chefs sell their food without the hassle. And consumers can have the trust, too; we have a vetting process for each cook and require hygiene accreditation.”

To take his idea forward, Jay signed up to Visionnaires in December, undergoing an intensive training period in sales, networking and marketing. After a two-week crash course, Jay was placed with mentor Michael Ingemann, Chairman of THINK Hospitality, to develop his business model.

“Michael has a vast knowledge in the industry and a different perspective on things. Working with him helps me zoom out sometimes. Also, he has a wide network of contacts who he has put me in touch with. I think the marketing part of the programme was the most helpful for me. I learnt how to plan out a campaign in a structured way and how to space out posts. Also, I learnt a lot from the other participants in the program too.”

Jay is looking forward to launching his business in south east London, and aims to expand it in the coming months.

Find out more about Visionnaires here.

“How Can Colleges Support London’s Economic Recovery”

Our CEO, Roy O’Shaughnessy, has penned a blog for Collab Group in the lead-up to the London Mayoral Elections entitled “How Can Colleges Support London’s Economic Recovery”. Ahead of the election on 6 May 2021, Collab Group have run a series of blogs from colleges on the future work between Further Education (FE) institutions and the London economy. Collab Group represents a network of 35 colleges and group in the United Kingdom and works with civic and business communities to develop education and its delivery.

In the blog, Roy highlights the need for a clear industrial plan around which colleges can tailor their provisions to employer needs. The Adult Skills and Lifelong Learning debate last week touched upon similar points as it considered the Third Report of the Education Committee.

He said: “As Britain deliberates over its recovery, its colleges must now focus on training and retraining a generation of people ready to assert themselves on the economy of tomorrow, whatever form it might take. I know that our colleges can provide the answer, using our experience to help learners make the most of their own unique contribution to London’s future.”

Read the full blog on the CollabGroup website.

We Respond to the Government’s Consultation on the Future of BTECs

The Government, through its recent further education white paper has put colleges on the map and is embarking on a series of measures to change the face of education for over 16s in this country. One of these is some significant changes it is proposing to vocational (non-academic) qualifications at level 3 (A Level equivalent). These changes, if carried out would see almost all current vocational qualifications, including BTECs, cease to exist and replaced by the new T Levels – leaving most 16 and 17-year-olds with a choice between only taking T Levels or A Levels.

Many of our students take BTECs and they are well-regarded and popular qualifications. For a lot of young people, having a BTEC under their belt has been their route into a job, a quality apprenticeship or a degree course at university. Because of this, we feel that BTECs are valuable in their own right, and also give students another option to gain a useful qualification at a key moment in their lives, when perhaps an A or T Level may not be the right choice for them. And we think that getting rid of them would be a mistake.

The Government’s proposed changes are in a consultation paper, published towards the end of October 2020.  As one of the country’s largest providers of further education, we have – along with other leading educational organisations including the exam body Pearson, the Association of Colleges and the Sixth Form Colleges Association – responded to the consultation. You can read our response here: CCCG response to DFE Level 3 consultation

Our Comment on Government FE White Paper

The Government has published a white paper on the future of further education today. It runs to 77 pages and sets out changes that the Government wants to make to further education and skills training. Now that it has been published (available to read in full here), the Department for Education will consult with the sector and others, with a view to implementing the things in it. We will take part in these consultations and look forward to helping shape our sector’s future.

Commenting on the white paper, Roy O’Shaughnessy, Chief Executive of the Capital City College Group said:

“The long-awaited further education white paper is finally with us. Its publication is a welcome acknowledgement of the vital role that the nation’s further education colleges, the 2.2 million people who study in them and the 55,000 staff who educate them, must play in the UK’s post-Brexit role in the world and our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“According to the CBI, our changing economy – fuelled by digitisation and automation – will mean that millions of us will need new skills over the next 10 years. Colleges are ready to provide these skills and we look forward to working with the government and others to help shape the future and turn the white paper into reality.

“We have students of all ages and all skill levels learning in our colleges, so it’s particularly welcome that the Government has restated their ambition to enable everyone to learn flexibly throughout their lives, as well as boosting the profile and reputation of further education. Like all colleges, we already work with local employers and other partners across London to provide valuable experiences and opportunities to our students in addition to their studies, and it’s pleasing that the white paper includes plans to further develop this work, through Local Skills Improvement Plans.

“We also welcome the desire to consult on simplifying the complex system for funding further education and to give providers more autonomy, and we’re delighted that the white paper acknowledges the key role that our teachers play, and that it wants to improve retention and encourage fresh talent into the sector. However, with college staff still paid considerably less than their fellow teachers in schools and universities, any discussion about recruitment and retention must also address the issue of staff pay and the viability of colleges.”

Student voice ‘more important than ever’ during COVID pandemic

Student voice ‘more important than ever’ during COVID pandemic

Two students say their peers’ voice is “more important than ever” during the COVID pandemic after joining the board of Capital City College Group (CCCG).

Luke Wilmoth and Precious Agyei Boateng will provide a student perspective to support the strategic planning for the Group, which has around 29,000 students and apprentices

CCCG comprises City and Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College, the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) and apprenticeship and training provider Capital City College Training.

Precious, 18, from Enfield, is completing a Health and Social Care diploma at CONEL having been educated at schools in Italy and Ghana before moving to the UK last year.

She said: “I have a clear vision for the college and looking forward to collaborating with the other board members for the benefit of the students. It is important that the students have a voice and the board listens to every concern as they are at the centre of everything they do.”

Luke, 17, from Waltham Forest, is studying A Levels in Geography, Physics and Politics at City and Islington College and has aspirations to become an airline pilot or work in politics.

A London Youth Assembly member, he is also Youth Mayor for Waltham Forest and has shared his views on issues affecting young people through Waltham Forest Young Advisors.

Luke has also undertaken voluntary work for charities including the LVE Charitable Foundation and Royal British Legion.

He said: “It will be great experience to be able to contribute as a board member. The coronavirus pandemic, and the changes made to education nationally, mean it is now more important than ever to include a student voice at a strategic level.

“I hope to make a positive contribution to the leadership and direction of the Group, its three colleges and CCCT. It will be both a rewarding and educating experience discovering how governing bodies for education groups work and helping influence key decisions.”

As well as having student board members, students across the Group have other ways to make their voices heard. Each CCCG college also has a students’ union and class representatives to enable them to provide feedback on all aspects of college life. Surveys are also undertaken to give insight.

Graham Drummond, Director of Governance, said: “We are delighted to welcome Luke and Precious to the CCCG board. They were both excellent candidates and we look forward to them providing and contributing to discussions to help inform our strategic decisions.

“Their opinions and insights will be valued and listened to. They will play an important part in helping to develop and shape the content of our next three-year plan, which is due to be approved in March.”