Bridges Evergreen (Evergreen), a specialist long-term investment partner for mission-driven organisations, has acquired a majority stake in Skills Training UK, an independent skills training provider.
Skills Training UK is one of the leaders in its sector – it has a long track record of growth and achievement in the design and delivery of employer-responsive apprenticeships and individual-focused skills programmes that align with business needs, creating sustainable employment and supporting social mobility. It has received numerous awards for the quality of its provision, including TES Training Provider of the Year 2019 and TES Apprenticeship Programme of the Year 2020.
Working with a number of funding partners in central and local Government, and with Local Economic Partnerships, Skills Training UK offers a diversified range of apprenticeships, traineeships, adult skills and employability courses which support 16-24 year-olds and adult learners, many of whom are from disadvantaged communities, to achieve positive destinations. Over 6,800 learners enrolled across a wide range of courses last year, including over 1,200 apprentices.
Evergreen is managed by Bridges Fund Management (Bridges), the specialist sustainable and impact investor. The investment in Skills Training UK follows Bridges’ ‘Future Skills’ investment theme, which is focused on shaping the workforce of the future (in line with SDG 4, Quality Education, Target 4.4). More than 80 per cent of employers already think a lack of skills is damaging the UK’s competitiveness, resulting in one of the lowest productivity rates in the G7.
Changes to the world of work are likely to exacerbate this problem: by 2030, more than third of the jobs we do today could be automated, and 20 per cent of the workforce are likely to be under-skilled. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and tighter immigration rules post-Brexit are also likely to create skills shortages in certain industries. So there is an urgent national need for high quality up-skilling, apprenticeship and other training provision.
Martin Dunford OBE, CEO, Skills Training UK, says: “We wanted to find a funding partner who not only could help us achieve our growth ambitions but also shared our focus on creating real and genuine impact by delivering enhanced skills and outcomes for our employer and learner customers. Bridges clearly knows this sector well from previous investments within its Future Skills theme, and we felt Evergreen’s combination of patient capital and hands-on strategic support was the perfect fit for us. We’re excited at the opportunity to work together to continue to build the business and help more people access quality skills training and employment.”
Tom Biddle, Head of Bridges Evergreen, says: “We’re delighted that Skills Training UK has chosen to partner with Evergreen. It has an outstanding offering, run by an expert, highly experienced and well-connected team. The world of work is likely to change profoundly over the next decade, and it’s our conviction that this will result in increasing demand for the skills and employment opportunities that Skills Training UK provides. We are looking forward to drawing on our combined experience in this sector to support Skills Training UK’s continued growth, while utilising our impact management expertise to drive better outcomes for a broader range of learners and employers.”
The Bridges team first identified Skills Training UK as a potential partner in 2017 through its thematic investment research, and approached management directly. This meant Evergreen was well-positioned to be selected as the preferred bidder when the business came to market in 2020. Tom Biddle, Luke Edwards, Laura Noorani, Cristina Spiller and Kyle Bentwood worked on the transaction, with Tom Biddle and Luke Edwards joining the board of Skills Training UK as part of the deal.