When Vic Grimes stepped down from running the National Apprenticeship Service at the Skills Funding Agency in March, he was looking forward to taking a long and well-earned break.
After nearly 30 years in harness, the last 20 in senior roles creating and managing high quality apprenticeships and vocational training opportunities , it was time to travel a bit, take care of those odd jobs round the home in Bexleyheath and spend plenty of time pursuing his passion, the leisurely art of fishing. He was sure he could beat his record catch - an 18lb salmon landed a few years ago from the River Shannon, near where his family have their roots in Ireland.
But life had other plans and instead of becoming the compleat angler, Vic found himself quickly being reeled back in to the world he knows so well when the job of Operations Director at Construction Youth Trust suddenly came up. His wealth of experience dovetailed perfectly with the Trust’s aims and ambitions and since May, instead of casting his line from a riverbank, he’s been hard at work with his new colleagues in London and round the regional offices as well as meeting as many contractors and clients as possible. He says he’s relishing every moment.
But why the change of heart? A strong desire to still be involved in helping young people make their way in life, explains Vic. “I had a few months out, and I kept thinking I wanted to do something interesting, where I could make use of my experience and really put something back in to the training industry. I also really enjoy operational roles, delivering programmes and managing change, and I felt that I could bring something of value to the Trust.
“I’d worked with the Trust at the National Apprenticeship Service, together with a consortia of civil engineering companies securing Apprenticeships for young people often from disadvantaged backgrounds, with organisations such as Crossrail. I was very impressed with their work. Executive Director Christine Townley is an enormous asset, and they have big plans to strengthen their programmes to enable more employers attract talented young people into the construction industry. So I’m really enjoying being here, carrying out a very broad role – blue sky thinking one minute, fixing the photocopier the next!”
One of Vic’s key objectives – what he describes as his ‘Call to Action’ – is to get more employers involved in creating apprenticeships and job opportunities in construction and the built environment.
“We’ve got good links with many big developers and construction companies, but of course they don’t all directly employ their labour. So we have to get the message out to their supply chains that we can help them access the young people they need in their workforce.”
With the construction industry emerging from recession, Vic feels he’s come on board at a good time. “We’ve got some real opportunities now to match up young people with the needs of employers. The industry says it needs to fill 182,000 jobs by 2018. And we know there are 975,000 NEETS – young people not in education, employment or training. So the industry’s needs can be met if we work with employers and schools inspiring more young people from diverse backgrounds to consider the wide range of exciting career pathways that exist now and into the future.
Vic’s experience will be invaluable in matching the needs of both parties. He’s spent almost his entire working life helping people into work and promoting training. His own career speaks volumes of the opportunities that can open up for people from modest backgrounds. He hails from the East End of London, but moved to Abbeywood in South East London in the late 1960s. He left school with a few qualifications and spent time working for his carpenter father in the building trade. It was the early 80s, and recession meant work was hard to come by so he returned to school and with some O-levels under his belt became a clerical officer in the Manpower Services Commission.
Promotions rapidly followed each other as by now armed with an MBA, he moved his way through the South London Training and Enterprise Council and the Learning and Skill Councils at both East London and then South London before joining the Skills Funding Agency as Director of Apprenticeships in 2009.
Alongside his career, Vic has devoted much time and effort to helping Trust Thamesmead, a social and economic development charity where he is still a Trustee and Director. During his time as Chairman of the Trust, he played a leading role in engineering its merger with the Peabody Housing Association – a considerable achievement of which he is understandably proud.
Despite the seniority his experience brings, Vic is not one for hierarchy and enjoys being just one of the team. “I’m already finding it very satisfying to be working with colleagues here, and I’m sure we can achieve lots together. I can see a great future just ahead for the Trust.”