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The S&A Group invests a further £1million in new academies to plug UK "professional skills" crisis

1 of the UK's leading challenger consulting firms, which specialises in large scale business, technology and digital transformation, is investing a further £1 million in its very own professional training and apprenticeships academies to create a Northern pipeline of talent to plug the UK's professional skills gap crisis.

The S&A Transform Group (The S&A Group) which was founded in London by tech and business transformation entrepreneur Darren Coomer in 2010, formally launched The S&A Academy today and will be headquartered in Manchester's Spinningfields business and tech district, as part of the Northern Tech and Science Powerhouse movement.

Coomer is no stranger to Manchester and the North West having spent much of his early tech career in the Region. He went on to pioneer transformational CTO/CIO and COO roles in large financial services and insurance organisations such as LV= and the Co-op.

The S&A Academy will have 3 specialised academies:- Technology and Digital, Science and Laboratory, and Business and Leadership. Each providing personalised professional training and apprenticeships as well as bespoke course creation and certification programmes for corporate clients.

The S&A Academy will play a pivotal role in providing a professional skills training and apprenticeship pipeline across Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Yorkshire and Lancashire as the Northern Powerhouse and the rest of the UK. It will enable people of all ages to gain the professional skills they need to succeed in the workplace. Importantly, it will allow individuals to retrain and reskill, at the same time debunking the previously inaccessible university degree pathways to new careers in technology, science and business.

The decision to launch 3 apprenticeship training academies comes at a time when the UK faces its biggest ever shortage of professional skills talent in these sectors. The UK Digital Strategy 2022 estimates that the digital skills gap costs the UK economy £63 billion per year in gross domestic product and that this gap is expected to widen.

Coomer said:- "Manchester and the northwest were the natural choice to headquarter the S&A Academy given our history of launching other businesses in the Region. It was the world's 1st industrial City and now Manchester is the driving force of the Northern Tech and Science Powerhouse. The UK tech sector finished last year number 1 as the leading tech ecosystem in Europe and also number 3 in the world, with UK tech valued at over $1 trillion. The S&A Academies are strategically positioned to make a valuable contribution to the UK economy and the Northern Powerhouse by training the next generation of tech, science and business apprentices to maintain the talent pipeline to those fast growing ecosystems."

The S&A Group, along with its parent investment fund Moorfield Holdings, had previously invested over £1 million founding another Manchester-based training provider, Credersi. They will now look to take their experiences of designing and delivering critical science, lab skills and tech training programmes, as well as expertise in business consulting to launch the S&A Academy.

The new S&A Academies will be curated by digital and technology transformation czar Darren Coomer, a highly experienced and gifted CTO and CIO with more than 3 decades of cutting-edge tech and business experience.

Coomer has helped many boards navigate major business transformations, drive innovation and shift to customer-focused digital-first strategies, whilst all the time maintaining a clear focus on the need to constantly recruit and train new talent. He is credited with many large-scale transformations in global corporates, as well as launching pioneering products in Fintech and the blockchain/web3 world. Either as a Founder / Entrepreneur, or on behalf of major corporations.

The 3 S&A Academies will consolidate S&A Group's existing apprenticeship provision; which is licensed by the Education and Skills Funding Agency and regulated by Ofsted; as well as providing additional support to S&A's growing consulting business. Collectively they will deliver specialist training and apprenticeships to corporate clients, as well as direct to educational Authorities, aiming to recruit, upskill or retrain existing workforces, as part of their talent strategies.

Coomer believes the S&A Academy's offering will be class leading in delivering modern, industry designed and highly relevant training across its chosen sectors of technology, science, and business. With each domain chosen due to the extensive industry leading expertise the academies will have access to, via its sister company, The S&A Transform Group, and their clients. Clients ranging in size from VC funded companies to FTSE scale organisations in both private and public sector.

Coomer commented:- "We built the S&A Academy to provide a future proofed industry relevant professional training and apprenticeship programme that is commercially in tune with the real world and not a purely academic led syllabus. It has been developed using extensive knowledge, expertise and experience, as well as detailed client feedback from many years of delivering business and technology consulting."

The S&A Academy professional apprenticeships and training programmes will rival any graduate scheme, by preparing new employees with actual job relevant skills, making them:- "oven ready" so they can hit the ground running on day 1 and seamlessly fit into the workplace environment. An S&A Academy graduate will stay longer and make more commercial sense than consistently using external contractors, agency staff or offshore suppliers.

Coomer added:- "The recent closure of start up growth network Tech Nation, which had incubated over a 3rd of the UK's tech unicorns, further reinforces the huge importance of developing our digital skills economy and workforces. By investing in professional apprenticeships in science, tech and business, we are by default investing and producing the next generation of professional careers with our own British talent. Both to address our current skills gap and to minimise our reliance on offshore labour, thus, creating a stronger UK economy and a more resilient workforce."

Over 16,000 UK drivers caught using a mobile phone or device in 2022, despite new driving laws

MORE than 16,000 UK drivers were caught using a mobile phone or device between:- January and October 2022. And despite stricter laws being introduced last year to deter drivers from breaking the law, UK Police Forces issued a staggering £3.3m in fines.

That's according to a Freedom of Information request by, which looked at data from 31 UK Police Forces. The data revealed that 16,547 drivers were caught using a mobile phone last year, even with stricter laws introduced in 2022.

It's common for UK motorists to have access to a:- mobile phone, sat nav or touch screen radio while driving. And while it may seem innocent to quickly change a song or set a location on maps, interacting with such devices when behind the wheel is illegal. With tighter penalties introduced in 2022, it's now illegal to adjust your route on maps, or a sat nav, without pulling over in a safe place. But it's likely that the introduction of these stricter rules has left many UK drivers confused when it comes to interacting with devices in their car. That's why teamed up with South Wales Police to answer some frequently asked questions around mobile phone driving laws. If caught, drivers could face fines of up to £200 and have 6 points issued on their licence. So it pays to be aware of the current laws, especially as the latest research also reveals that mobile phone use is still a big problem in the UK.

According to a survey of 2,000 UK motorists, 41% were caught using their phone or other device when behind the wheel last year. And for drivers who have been caught by Police in the past, it's clear that mobile phone distractions are a common problem on UK roads. That's as driver's most common reasons for being caught were because of reading a text/message (35%), or accepting/declining a call (33%). 30% were also caught playing a game on their phone. This seems like a huge risk considering breaking mobile phone laws is costing Brits millions in fines. However, data shows that 34% are more concerned about the safety implications of using a mobile phone than the actual fine. A further 33% also said that there should be more measures in place to catch people using their mobile phone when driving. But although the laws have tightened in the past 12 months, research by also shows that many drivers continue to put themselves at risk. That's 51% of motorists admit to interacting with a mobile phone while driving. And the most common scenarios were when they were waiting at traffic lights (31%) or sat stationary in traffic (28%).

When it comes to certain behaviours, data reveals that London is 1 of the worst offending Regions. The Metropolitan Police reported the highest number of drivers using a mobile phone between:- January and October 2022, with a total of 5,492 offences. This is higher than the total number caught by all Police Forces operating in Scotland, who caught 1,196 drivers doing so last year in comparison. This means just 1 area of the UK accounted for 33% of the 16,547 UK drivers caught last year in total. In fact, the number of drivers caught by the Metropolitan Police saw the biggest increase year-on year since 2019, rising from 4,528 to 5,492 in 3 years.

The research also suggests that more drivers in London are interacting with a mobile phone when driving because they don't see it as a danger in certain situations. 26% of motorists in London think it's okay to use a mobile phone while driving in an emergency. They also think it should be legal to do so when stationary in traffic (26%) or when waiting at traffic lights (24%). But lights change quickly and traffic can start moving again unexpectedly. So you never know when your attention might need to be diverted back to the road. And the research also revealed that more drivers from London admitted to having an accident as a result of interacting with such devices while driving (22%). This was higher than any other Region, according to the survey research.

And it's not just mobile phones that can take your focus away from the road. Over a quarter of UK motorists said they've interacted with other devices while driving, such as a sat nav (27%) or touch screen radio (28%). While this may seem less dangerous than using a mobile phone behind the wheel, these devices can still be distracting. And some drivers agree, as 21% think in-car touch screen systems are actually more distracting than mobile phones.

Outside of London, West Yorkshire also had a high number of mobile phone offences. Between:- January and October 2022, West Yorkshire Police caught 1,005 drivers using a mobile phone when behind the wheel. And Kent County Constabulary weren't too far behind, catching 836 motorists doing so last year. According to further research, 21% drivers from Yorkshire and the Humber admitted to interacting with a mobile phone and/or other device while driving. And 22% of drivers from the South East admitted to doing the same.

It's evident from the research that many drivers across the UK are risking fines. And now with stricter laws around mobile phone use in vehicles, along with many other road laws tightened last year, even more drivers are at risk.

Louise Thomas, car insurance expert, says:- "It's clear that mobile phones and other interactive devices are still distracting thousands of drivers across the UK. Especially as over 16,000 UK drivers were caught doing so by Police just last year, racking up millions in fines. Driving laws are essential for keeping road users safe. And anything that can steal your attention from the road should be avoided, as it's most likely going to be breaking the law. You may be tempted to check a notification or adjust your location on maps if you end up lost. But the best thing to do in these situations is to pull over in a safe place and turn off your vehicle until you're ready to go again. The rising cost of living is causing motoring costs to increase as it is, so a hefty fine is the last thing drivers need. Especially when fines can easily be avoided by familiarising yourself with road laws. We teamed up with South Wales Police to answer any FAQs around mobile phone use in vehicles. Our guide on mobile phone driving laws should clear up any confusion about the latest driving laws, helping motorists to stay safe on the road."

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