New skills leader Chris Humphries pledges his team ‘means business’

New skills supremo Chris Humphries has vowed his team will “give it their best shot” in working with employers to solve the UK’s skills crisis.

Last week, Humphries was appointed chief executive of the new Commission for Employment and Skills (CES). He joins after seven years at awarding body City & Guilds, and starts work in the New Year.

The CES was a chief recommendation of the Leitch Review and will advise ministers on skills strategy and policies. It will also have a major say on whether employee training should become mandatory for employers in 2010.

Humphries said the lure of the top skills job was “too tempting” and a role he had to go for. “When the job came up, I thought there would not be another opportunity like it for some time, and I didn’t want to miss the boat,” he told Personnel Today.

A huge amount of work remains to be done before the CES officially launches in April next year. New staff have yet to be recruited, as have a cadre of 20 commissioners to work alongside Humphries and chair Sir Michael Rake.

According to Humphries, the new commissioners need to be “passionate business leaders” from the public, private and voluntary sectors. “I want the commissioners to be senior executives from top-flight employers that are recognised by others for their achievements in terms of skills,” he said.

Humphries admitted there was scepticism and cynicism from employers surrounding the issue of skills, but hoped to convince organisations that the commission would make a real impact.

“Employers will hopefully see by the commission’s calibre of leadership that we mean business,” he said. “We are building a team that share a passion [to succeed] and will give it our best shot.”

Chris ‘Mr Skills’ Humphries

Chris Humphries was appointed director-general of City & Guilds in 2001. This followed a three-year stint as head of the British Chambers of Commerce.

Over the past 20 years, he has worked with the government as an adviser on a variety of training projects. He served as chairman of the National Skills Taskforce from 1998 to 2000, and was a founding member of the Learning and Skills Council. He is also chairman of UK Skills, which is a not-for-profit organisation that champions skills.

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