Spotlight On Fiona Stilwell, CEO of PETA

“If you believe something will happen, it will – both positive and negative.”

PETA Ltd is a training and apprenticeship provider based in Portsmouth. We offer corporate training courses and apprenticeship programmes in Engineering, IT, Health & Safety, Business, Management and Finance. We are a registered charity, directed by an executive council of leaders elected from our member base. We operate on a self-financing basis and are non-profit making, which means all our funds are reinvested into the services and training we deliver.

Tell us a bit about your role and how it supports your organisation?

As the CEO I see my role as supporting, developing, coaching and challenging the team to be the best they can be to support our employers and apprentices.

Did you do an Apprenticeship or how did you start your career?

I started my career in the hospitality sector and was leading a team at 18, I truly believe this has helped me in my current role as I have been able to succeed and fail over many years to help develop my leadership capability.

What has been your career highlight to date?

Being offered my current role as CEO of PETA, I feel it is a perfect blend of using my skills from a corporate role and public sector to lead a purposeful organisation.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

If you believe something will happen it will – both positive and negative.

If you were not working in this sector, what other industry would you have pursued a career in?

I am fascinated by business so anything business-related which has an ethical purpose I would enjoy.

What is coming up for your organisation in the next 12/18 months?

We are really focused on modernising the delivery and looking forward to continue working closely with our employers to develop new programmes to meet their future needs.

Tell us one thing about the organisation that others might not already know.

We are owned and governed by local employers who are members of PETA Ltd, this ensures our delivery meets employers future needs.

As an association, what one thing do you think ALPS/ALPHE has done that has made a real difference to our members?

We have benefitted from participating in the local skills improvement plan work which ALPS/ALPHI have ensured that member organisations have been consulted with.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges, threats, and opportunities in the next 12/24 months for ALPS/ALPHI members?

Continuing funding rule changes and a lack of increase to funding to apprenticeship standards.

Ascentis Welcome Message

Ascentis is a national, charitable Awarding Organisation and Access Validating Agency. We’re market leaders in ESOL, and as an AVA we offer over 25 Access to HE qualifications. Our mission is to enable learning through innovative education and exceptional customer service.

We also offer qualifications in employability, construction, digital and a range of short online qualifications for enrichment.

We’re looking forward to bringing valuable insight to the network from our specialist areas, and most of all, to listening to what you have to say. We want to ensure the products we release are fit for purpose, and you’re the best people to advise us on this.

If you’d like to learn more, our website is or you can contact Clarissa Wheeler, Strategic Partnership Manager, on or .

Graduation Ceremony

We thrilled to say, that before Christmas we secured the funding to hold another Graduation Ceremony at the Cathedral in Guildford on the 13th September 2024, we hope you will all be able to get involved with this, it is a special event for students, families, and employers.

Surrey Festival of Skills; 23 November – Sandown Park Racecourse

Secure your students’ free spot at Surrey County Council’s ‘Surrey Festival of Skills’—a careers event that empowers, enlightens, guides and enriches. Brought to you in partnership with Surrey County Council, and Association of Learning Providers Surrey (ALPS), the event at Sandown Park Racecourse on Thursday 23 November 2023 will provide an interactive and informative event for young people in Year 10 and upwards. An opportunity to engage face-to-face with employers and education and training providers, from a variety of industry sectors, in one location.

This free event will support achievement of your Gatsby Benchmark outcomes effectively with so much available in one location, ensuring young people benefit from being better informed about transition and career choices with an understanding of the labour market, and are inspired about the future. Be the bridge to their future.

Register at: and apply for up to £500 bursary per education institute (based on eligibility criteria) to assist with transport costs. Register now, spaces are limited.

Surrey Apprentice Graduation Ceremony

Angela Richardson, the Member of Parliament representing Guildford, assumed the role of the featured speaker at the 8th annual Surrey Apprentices Graduation Ceremony, which took place at Guildford Cathedral this year.

This event, conducted in collaboration with The Association of Learning Providers Surrey (ALPS), was a joyous occasion that marked the graduation of 100 apprentices, alongside the participation of learning providers, employers, and parents. The day was filled with festivities and enjoyment, and it has become customary for attendees to arrive early, don their academic gowns, take professional photographs, and have the opportunity to meet some of the event’s speakers.

This occasion also serves as a valuable platform for engaging with the local MP and key stakeholders. It was particularly relevant given our members’ concerns regarding the minimum wage for apprenticeships, which often discourages individuals from pursuing apprenticeship opportunities.

Solent Local Skills Improvement Plans

The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has announced that the Department for Education has approved its Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP).

The report provides an updated review of the economic and skills landscape and identifies key priorities that all stakeholders can contribute to, to achieve real change and a positive impact moving forward.

🔗 Read the report here:

Safeguarding Group Call

This meeting was our Safeguarding Group, Mike Driscoll shares it and you could put something like “providers sharing good practice during an ALPS/ALPHI Safeguarding sub-group for members only.” 

Please contact sue@alpsurrey if you would like to participate in future meetings.

Case Study from a resilient Apprentice

During my time at George Abbot sixth form I took 4 A-Levels: Mathematics, Engineering, IT and Geography, whilst also doing lots of extra curricular activities. Throughout that time I had always thought University wasn’t for me and had started looking into apprenticeships, however didn’t fully understand how the process to get an apprenticeship worked or what the different levels were like. This was the case until I went to a session with Sue Taylor that George Abbot had set up for sixth form students, where I then understood all the different levels of apprenticeships and how and where to apply to them via the website for apprenticeships. I have now since applied to 25+ higher and degree apprenticeships and got three offers to which I have accepted a degree apprenticeship in Digital and Technology solutions with Accenture. The main take away from applying to all these apprenticeships is that the whole application process takes longer than you think, which is why having a cover and CV that can be changed easily for each role can really help, and yes I intend to come back next year.

New NFER Research released

‘Barriers to young people accessing intermediate and advanced apprenticeships: perspectives from apprenticeship providers’

We are delighted to share NFER’s new research report ‘Barriers to young people accessing intermediate and advanced apprenticeships: perspectives from apprenticeship providers’

This report is based on insights gained from a roundtable NFER hosted with groups who offer apprenticeship opportunities.

It highlights that increasing the affordability of apprenticeships could be a ‘game changer’ in increasing young people’s interest in apprenticeships.

Key findings:

  • The ongoing decline in apprenticeship starts at intermediate and advanced levels for 16-19-year-olds since 2015/16 remains a significant concern.
  • Providers reported that the most common barrier remains a lack of detailed awareness and in-depth understanding amongst young people, their parents/carers and teachers of apprenticeships and the long-term gains. This is preventing young people from even getting to the point of application. 
  • At the point of application, providers perceived the most common barriers for young people to include: not being ’work ready’; not having GCSE English and maths at Grade 4+ (or the equivalent); low levels of psychological wellbeing, low confidence, lack of resilience, and anxiety; apprenticeships not being affordable; and some apprenticeships not being widely available. 

NFER recommends:

  • To ensure that opportunities for increasing young people’s awareness and understanding of apprenticeships are capitalised upon, the Government should carefully monitor the implementation of the Skills and Post-16 Education Act 2022 to ensure that the enhanced Baker Clause is being actioned.
  • There is a need for employers to be proactively promoting the progression opportunities that apprenticeships bring, through the inclusion of the apprenticeship standards and levels that are desirable/meet entry requirements for all job roles, not just apprenticeships.
  • Increasing the affordability of apprenticeships for young people is also essential. This includes addressing the level of the minimum apprenticeship wage, the more widespread introduction of discounted or free travel passes, incremental annual pay increases as an apprentice progresses, to a thorough evaluation of the potentially detrimental consequences of apprenticeships on Child Benefit.
  • Consideration should be given to encouraging more employers, particularly SMEs, to take on young people who seem to be increasingly losing out to older, more mature applicants. This requires a review of existing incentives, with increased financial aid for employers supporting young people to achieve level 2 in English and maths, and who have other support needs.

SME Surrey Business Awards


The companies making up the backbone of Surrey celebrated in style last night at the 2023 I Need A PA/ SME Surrey Business Awards.

The prestigious event, held at Epsom Downs Racecourse, shone a spotlight on the achievements of companies with up to 250 employees.

The counties finest Small and Medium Enterprises gathered to celebrate their success, and saw Sutton based Family Business, Croxsons take home the Overall Winner title.

Tim Croxson, CEO of Croxsons, commented on the win, saying:

“We are really proud to have won two awards this evening. At Croxsons, we are a huge pusher on Sustainability, and very passionate about what we do. Getting the recognition through these Awards is something we are really proud of. We are incredibly humbled.”

The SME Surrey Business Awards 2022 are backed by national renowned Service Master Clean AAA. With over 60 years’ experience in commercial cleaning, they aim to give complete peace of mind with their professional cleaning services, so clients can focus on what is most important to them, and not the cleaning.

The judges of the Awards were looking for organisations who show outstanding initiative, boldness, and imagination in Surrey, as well as sound management practices throughout their business.

The Judges of the SME Surrey Business Awards 2022 are all top business people within their chosen arena and have cited the awards as both the most transparent and professionally executed.

Lucinda Grossmith, the host for the evening and Ambassador for the Jockey Club and Epsom Downs Racecourse commented “We’re all aware that SMEs are responsible for driving innovation and competition across the counties economic sectors.

“The sheer number, breadth, and overall quality of the entries we have received is a testament of the strength of Surrey’s growing SME market. This year’s entries demonstrate a commitment to impact and purpose-driven work that’s here to stay.

We should all be proud that such businesses choose to call Surrey home.” Lucinda continued.

“The Finalists have set the standard for SMEs across Surrey.” Said Lucy Williams, I Need a PA. “Just reaching the Finals is a testament to the skill, determination and hard work of each and every business here this evening .”

Croxsons, alongside nearly all other Gold Winners from the evening, will be going through to the SME National Business Awards Grand Final, taking place at the iconic Wembley Stadium later this year.