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.

ALPS Alphi meeting with Chancellor

Network Manager, Sue Taylor along with Gary Hudson from I Choose Local met last week with Chancellor Of The Exchequer and Member of Parliament for Waverley, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP. Discussions included the potential for a Trainee’s bursary as a pre-apprenticeship programme and the value of Apprenticeships for school leavers at 16 as an alternative to full-time Further Education.

Surrey Skills Summit

We’re thrilled to announce that Surrey County Council is hosting the Surrey Skills Summit, and you’re invited.

The summit will take place on 10th November at Sandown Racecourse and has been designed to ensure that Surrey’s skills system continues to power the economic success of the county. The event will also launch the Surrey Skills Plan, providing attendees with the opportunity to explore key recommendations and actions together and focus on how the plan can benefit the local community and enhance Surrey’s skills system.

Register Here


After many years of working very closely with ALPHI, our sister network for Hampshire and The Isle of Wight, we are delighted to announce that ALPS is joining forces with ALPHI to form one network that will cover Surrey, HAmpshire and The Isle of Wight. All Hampshire/IOW members are now members of ALPS/ALPHI (as we will continue to call it for now). Our first joint network meeting since the joint nevture is on Tuesday 27th September at The Hogs Back Hotel, Nr Farnham. We look forward to welcoming our new Hampshire and IOW colleagues.

Graduation 2022

After two years of delay through Covid, on 16th September we were back at Guildford Cathedral for our sixth Graduation Ceremony – and for the third year we partnered with GLF Schools to recognise the achievements of their newly qualified teachers alongside those of Surrey’s apprentices.

Over 150 graduates celebrated their awards in front of proud families, friends, employers and training providers, and a number of guest speakers including employers and apprentices themselves shared their experiences and journeys with the packed ‘congregation’.

The weather held out for us and as usual, the cathedral was a magnificent setting for this event. Thank you to everyone who helped to make it a huge success – and congratulations again to all the graduates!

Click Here to view and download more photos

Photography by Paul Wilson

HM Queen Elizabeth II

Along with the whole nation, we are deeply saddened by the news of the pasing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. For over 70 years she selflessly carried out her duties in representing  the United Kingdom throughout the world and we join the whole country in sending our heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family.

ALPS & Alphi will, of course, follow government guidance as it emerges regarding the period of national mourning. We will remain on hand to support members with anything they need, so please do continue to get in touch.  The Department for Education has advised that schools and FE settings should remain open during the period of national mourning. Any requests for leave of absence should be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account individual circumstances. The Department will be contacting sector leaders with further advice once details of the funeral are confirmed by the Royal Household.   Guidance providing the public, businesses and institutions with advice on the period of national mourning will soon be issued by the Cabinet Office and available on GOV.UK.

ADCN Annual Report

The Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network (ADCN) champions apprenticeships and diversity amongst employers. It works to encourage more people from underrepresented groups, including those with disabilities, women and members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities to consider apprenticeships.

Lia Nici MP, has been appointed as Chair of the network, and is responsible for setting and shaping the network’s objective, working alongside the National Apprenticeship Service.

The report includes case studies of excellent practice in diversity and inclusion. Including real life examples of what businesses have done to achieve greater diversity and inclusion in apprenticeships.

To read the full report and see which employers are involved in the network, please click here

Fedcap Launch in Staines

It was a pleasure to be invited to the Fedcap opening in Staines on Friday with the launch of the Restart programme for the area. The Restart Scheme is part of the government’s Plan for Jobs to help find jobs in the local area. Also, great to see Marcus Headington who is now the Operations Manager for the programme. Marcus will be attending the next ALPS meeting to explain the work which is already happening and the future work with Fedcap.

Spelthorne Youth Hub Launch

It was lovely to be invited to the opening of the Spelthorne Youth Hub on Friday evening hosted at Guy Salmon.  ALPS have been involved in the project with Spelthorne Borough Council and we have also been involved with the set up of “I Choose Local”, a new website giving information to businesses, young people and parents on how to find skills in the area.

The keynote speech was made by Kwarsi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and MP for Spelthorne.  The event was hosted by students who have already been supported by the hub in many different ways, including confidence building and job searches.

ITP Research by AELP

Sue attended the parliamentary reception on the 22/2/22 hosted by AELP and sponsored by Learning Curve Group, this research had involved ALPS members and I was pleased to be at the event with Jackie from Professional Training Solutions.

It was great to hear how Independent Training Providers (ITPs) contribute to the Skills System in delivering not only Apprenticeships but other fantastic programmes such as T Levels, Boot Camps and Study Programmes.  The research is a call for action for ministers to see the massive contribution ITPs make to the sector and they should not be seen as a fill-in where other provision is not available. There were speeches from Lord Aberdore, Martin Dunford (AELP), Steve Morris (Learning Curve Group) and Paul Warner (AELP) who shared the research in more detail.

The seven recommendations are:

  • Skills policy should concentrate on facilitating what works and not which type of institution delivers it.
  • Intervention measures must be reviewed and made equitable to avid disadvantaging learners that choose to study at each type of institution.
  • ITPs are well paced to engage learners and supply skills training at Level 2 and below, and policy should aim to proactively harness these strengths.
  • In policy design, less default reliance should be placed on traditional models of academic year classroom-based methodologies that limited the use of ITP strengths in engaging employers and enabling learners to reach their full potential.
  • Prior prioritisation should be made more equitable between GCSE and academic routes to literacy and numeracy, and work-based learning.
  • Government and its agencies must trust ITPs to continue to deliver high-quality and responsive provision.
  • ITPs bring a wealth of experience, expertise and industry knowledge that are vital to formulating the proper response to skills need of employers and learners alike. Policymakers and those designing the implementation of such policies must make better use of the attributions.

Click Here to read the full report