Spotlight on: Matt Lambert

I’m CEO of the National Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards.   We represent the employer point of view on skills needs and promote apprenticeships and skills training across the UK.  After a career in national and international corporate and public affairs with several major companies, I was looking for a change of direction.  While on holiday about a year ago, I went snorkelling with a friend and saw a most beautiful starfish.  I don’t believe in kismet but later that day I was scrolling through e-mailson my phone when I saw a message from Starfish Search.  ‘That’s an interesting coincidence’ I thought and that mail led me to Juliet Taylor who asked if I’d be interested in promoting skills and apprenticeships as CEO of the Federation.  I ran some big national skills programmes for Microsoft earlier in my career so this felt like a great fit.

2020 has been called The Lost Year, but what have you gained or discovered that would otherwise have missed? This has been an incredibly tough year for everyone and my heart goes out to all those who have been personally affected by this terrible disease and its economic consequences.  So I’m certainly not being flippant when I say that we have all had to reach for new depths of strength and resilience to come through this difficult time.  For myself and my team we have learnt some important lessons about leadership, taking responsibility and the ability to be flexible and to adapt to new ways of working.  We created a campaign called #KeepBritainTraining and worked with our members as well as with government and regulators to identify ways to relax rules on training assessments and best practices to maintain as much training as possible during the crisis.  We certainly learnt a lot of lessons that will prove valuable now and in the future.

What word do you use more than any other? Skills, skills, skills!  I passionately believe that if we can improve skills training across the UK and better match skills provision to employers’ needs this will contribute massively to rebuilding the economy and the public finances.  Skills can often be one of the functions that faces the most severe cut-backs in a downturn, but actually it’s the key to getting more young people into the world of work and useful careers as well as helping older workers to stay in the labour market.

Who has inspired you the most on your own career journey? Bill Gates has been an extraordinary inspiration both in his approach to business and philanthropic work.  In my former career I had first-hand experience of his extraordinary work-ethic but also got to see a little of the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The application of business acumen to solving problems such as global vaccination programmes, provision of clean water and education is truly inspirational.

What words of wisdom have most resonated with you that you now find yourself passing on to others? The late Bobby Kennedy once said: “Some see things as they are, and ask why.  I see things that never were, and ask why not.”  which seems a great way to look at the world.  Closer to home, my family has an optimistic saying from my wife’s grandmother which we use in difficult times and find ourselves saying a lot lately:  “There’s always an after…”