On 1 May 2024 we launched our first ever Skills Share event at Guildhall, London. This was a space to network and learn from the 200+ organisations who have successfully achieved a Princess Royal Training Award over the past nine years (for some up to seven times for different award programmes!). We were delighted that The President of the City & Guilds of London Institute, HRH The Princess Royal was also able to join us and share her own valuable insights of the Awards – that are in her name – and particularly highlight the positive potential and possibility that was clearly palpable in the room.

The Princess Royal Training Awards were created in 2016 after listening to feedback from employers. Our objective was simple: to recognise and reward all organisations who saw the benefit of investing in their training and development and could prove the impact of this back on their people and businesses.

There are many things that make the Awards special. Not least that they are based on a standard of excellence and therefore organisations are not competing against each other in order to achieve one. This means that every year we receive applications from big, small, private, public, non-profits and all of those in between. We award huge multinationals who are showing their impact in the UK through to small charities who are punching above their weight through their impressive L&D initiatives.

We’ve always known that the knowledge, passion and expertise within this network of recipients was 200-fold. Every organisation which receives an Award is delivering a programme or initiative that is special and impactful in its own right: that’s why it achieved the Award. Regardless of which sector and what type of programme is put forwards – from leadership & management to culture change to upskilling talent pipelines to apprenticeships – there is learning and best practice that can be shared and replicated across many other organisations, sectors and geographical locations. That is partly what made this event so special. Each attendee had been on a journey and had a story to tell but the common dominator was an absolute faith in learning and development and the wider value that it brings alongside a desire to continue to listen, learn and evolve.

The day started with a warm welcome from our City & Guilds CEO Kirstie Donnelly MBE followed by an initial panel discussion on The instrumental role of training in achieving core organisational priorities hosted by Chair of Pertemps, Carmen Watson, who is a proud Award recipient and member of our Foundation Committee. Carmen’s passion about the value of training shone through as she shared that her organisation’s return on investment had increased by 677% following the delivery of a programme focusing on upskilling sales consultants.

Carmen was joined on stage by Liz McGivern, VP of People & Culture at Red Carnation Hotel Collection; Tammy Banks, Founder and Director of Taye Training; Kevin Webber, Commercial Services Manager at Balfour Beatty; and Warren Page, Apprenticeship Manager at Xtrac. The discussions focused on the importance of training in providing a consistent and high quality customer experience, the link between building loyalty and the long term retention of employees and recognising and celebrating lived experience and the power of being relatable through the delivery of training. The breadth of topics covered showcased how interlinked learning and development is to every other crucial function of a business.

An on-table networking session then took place followed by an impressive lunch provided by 2019 recipient The Clink, who train staff in hospitality skills to reduce re-offending rates. With attendees suitably replenished, afternoon sessions began with different hosts posing training challenges to the table and asking for input and advice from their peers. Topics included how achieving the Award can help secure more investment for your programmes, how to inspire people who don’t work directly for you to join your initiatives and how to build a learning culture which will delight customers.

A second panel session led by Kirstie focused on The economic and societal value of employer training. Panellists included Anita Rigler, Volunteer Coordinator from the Ancient Technology Centre; Daksha Stancilas, Talent & Development Partner at Pret A Manger; Zahra Naqvi, Learning and Development Manager from Onside; and Tim Reading, CEO at Volunteer It Yourself. Discussions highlighted the importance of upskilling post-Covid to aid recovery, focusing on training to change communities and making training accessible and relevant. Daksha talked about how as part of their post-Covid recovery plan Pret focused on ‘creating a human touchpoint through food and drink’ as this was one of the things that people missed most during the pandemic and Pret wanted to respond to this through what they offered to customers.

As we reached the culmination of the event, HRH The Princess Royal took to the stage and spoke of the importance of recognising people and their skills in the workplace. She spoke of her involvement over the past nine years of the Awards and how it had identified that getting the training needs of the organisation right and then creating a training programme to meet these specific needs was fundamental to an organisation’s success. HRH also spoke about the impact to the economy that the 200+ Award recipients for 350 training programmes has made. She ended reflecting that City & Guilds has always put training at its heart for almost 150 years and through the Princess Royal Training Awards it is still delivering its core purpose, understanding individuals needs and recognising and celebrating the impact that training brings.

Speaking about the event, our Executive Director for Corporate Affairs and Foundation, Faiza Khan MBE said:

‘This event has been such a special moment to bring together our Princess Royal Training Award alumni as a voice for skills. It’s clear that there is so much expertise and insights in this community, and together the group is a collective force for skills. The feedback has been incredible and to know that we had 137 of our award recipients together representing nearly 100 organisations is something for us to be proud of. We’re looking forward to looking for more moments to bring together our employer networks so that we can make even more of a meaningful difference to society.’

In summing up the day, Kirstie Donnelly talked about the Princess Royal Training Awards being the jewel in City & Guilds’ crown and I really think it is. The Awards are there to celebrate excellent examples of how investing in your people leads to more loyal staff, more productive workforces and ultimately greater economic growth. But the ripple effect as witnessed in this room today, is even bigger. Award recipients wear their badge of honour with the upmost pride and this Award brings people together who really believe in the power of training to invest, meet, share and learn and the collective impact from this is immeasurable.

See all the photos from the event here

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