From a small collective of like-minded open colleges and access centres that were determined to promote career-based learning and ramp up quality in education, NOCN is now a powerful, national force in the skills development and apprenticeships sector.

This modest alliance of a handful of local organisations, grew quickly from its humble beginnings into a powerful national force comprising the regional Open College Networks (OCNs) that became the national NOCN family. By 2000, there were 31 of these.

In 2006, they merged into 11 larger OCNs, with NOCN increasingly taking an important advocacy role as they began to work more seamlessly with civil servants, politicians and policy-makers. By the late 1990s, NOCN was established as an indispensable partner of FE colleges up and down the UK, with the vast majority of them members of an OCN. Learners had jumped from 20,000 in 1994-95 to more than 70,000 at this time.

The appointment of dynamic managing director, Graham Hasting-Evans, steered us to becoming the number one apprentice End Point Assessment provider - and the acquisition of Cskills from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) in the summer of 2017.

This move made NOCN one of the largest UK construction Awarding Organisations (AO) and took place just as the industry was highly vulnerable to potential skills gaps. These loomed large with the onset of major capital infrastructure projects nationwide just as access to skilled EU workers shrank, following the Brexit vote. With the transfer of some 4,000 apprentices, NOCN’s position in the construction sector was strengthened hugely as our credibility and capability were dramatically enhanced.

As a result, we have become a potent driver towards achieving the government’s targeted three million apprenticeship starts by 2020. The acquisition hallmarks the bold, imaginative steps that have fuelled our strategic growth since 1987. Our ongoing expansion programme has also recently seen us scoop new contracts and add further revenue schemes. We are determined to continue to make the big decisions that will help learners reach their full potential and employers thrive – and more key developments are on the way.

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