Graham Hasting-Evans: Championing Professional Growth and Accessibility

Published by Gary Ellis on June 11th 2024, 7:02am

The career trajectory of Graham Hasting-Evans, NOCN’s Chief Executive, exemplifies the dynamism of professional growth, something he now enables for others. 

Starting his journey in the construction sector at a tender age of 19, he has expanded his professional footprint across 10 countries, making strides in various fields such as water utilities, management consultancy, and broadcasting.

“I moved out of construction into management around water utilities and then I moved into management consultancy,” he recalls. His time at Coopers & Lybrand, now known as PwC, marked a significant shift in his career trajectory.

Graham’s career is characterised by a continuous drive for learning and development. “I started to move into workforce development as well. This included apprenticeships, training, and upskilling people. That gave me a flavour of that type of activity,” he shares.

His expertise in workforce development led him to contribute to the London Olympics. “I was the 60th person to be employed on building the Olympic Park,” he says, highlighting his role in planning and procurement. His background in training and development also played a crucial role in upskilling unemployed people into sustainable jobs, a key objective of the Olympics.

Graham’s career took a political turn when he worked closely with Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport and Minister for the Olympics under the previous Labour government, and other political figures. This experience led him to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, where he voiced employers’ needs over skills to the government.

Today, as the Chief Executive of NOCN, Hasting-Evans oversees apprenticeships in various sectors, including construction, engineering, manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, and business administration. His organisation works globally, with a significant presence in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and India.

Under his leadership, NOCN has grown from a struggling charity with 26 people and a turnover of 2.4 million, to a thriving organisation with nearly 200 staff and a turnover of 20 million. “We’ve grown and developed tremendously,” he proudly states.

Championing Accessibility and Social Mobility

Graham is not just a leader but a catalyst for change. His commitment to accessibility and social mobility has transformed the organisation into a beacon of opportunity for individuals at all levels.

“We do a range of stuff that gets people into work,” he says, highlighting the breadth of NOCN’s programmes. From smart cards in construction to qualifications, the focus is on creating accessible pathways for everyone, starting from entry level.

Hasting-Evans’ approach to social mobility is practical and effective. “We are doing to help social mobility is to have proper career pathways and make sure we’re supporting those gaps in social mobility,” he explains. This involves helping individuals rise from having poor English and no employability skills, to climbing the career ladder.

He shares an inspiring example from India, where NOCN helps individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. “We train them up to HND level and they end up getting jobs in Australia, Japan, Indonesia, India,” he says.

The same ethos applies in the UK, where NOCN supports individuals, such as labourers, to become trained craftspeople and potentially move into management. “It’s giving them those pathways,” he says, emphasising the importance of providing opportunities for individuals to realise their leadership potential.

With qualifications up to level 7 in management, NOCN can support individuals from all walks of life. “We can take somebody from not being able to read or write to management,” Hasting-Evans proudly states.

The Making of a Leader

Graham’s early experiences, particularly as a deputy contracts manager at the age of 23, were instrumental in shaping his leadership style.

“I was second in command of a construction contract in Libya with two thousand workers,” he recalls. “I learned fast.” This experience, which he describes as being thrown in at the deep end, taught him the importance of good interpersonal skills and effective communication, even in the face of language barriers.

Hasting-Evans believes that a leader must provide certainty and make decisions when they need to be made. “You had to give that leadership,” he says. “So it was that consistency and support.” He emphasises the importance of being open, transparent, and providing solutions when things go wrong.

His approach to leadership is characterised by transparency and consultation. “You consult with people, see what they’ve got to say and what they think,” he explains. This approach, he believes, is crucial in both the private and public sectors.

Hasting-Evans also highlights the importance of being a good analyst, understanding risks, and handling people effectively. “You’ve got to be able to work with people and they’ve got to feel the confidence in you,” he says.

His door is always open, even to the most junior members of his team. “You walk the talk,” he says, emphasising the importance of visibility and responsibility in leadership, “and don’t ask people to do things you are not prepared to do yourself.”

Navigating the Broad Challenges

Graham is also no stranger to the challenges that the sector faces. He identifies a lack of national strategy as a significant issue. “What’s not understood is that skills are not the same as education,” he says. “Skills are about the workplace and therefore skills fit within the overall economic strategy for the country.”

He believes that if the UK wants a growth economy, it needs to invest in skills. However, he acknowledges that this is a challenge, especially given the declining investment in skills over the past decade. “We will not grow the economy and produce all the benefits of that, such as better health services and roads, unless we tackle skills first,” he asserts.

Graham also highlights the need for a fundamental rethink of the education system. He criticises the one-size-fits-all approach, arguing that it doesn’t work for everyone. “We need different ways of educating people to get into different types of jobs in the workforce,” he says. Graham also points out the problems with bureaucracy and the challenges of devolution, “the system is one-size-fits-all and too centralised.”

A Legacy of Lifelong Learning

Approaching the end, Graham shares his perception of a legacy that transcends traditional educational boundaries. His vision is encapsulated in the concept of the “NOCN Skills Passport.” “It’s all embracing,” he says.

Graham also emphasises the importance of continuous skill development throughout one’s career, a concept often overlooked in traditional education systems. “It isn’t a case of ‘I did a degree and that’s it.’ It’s about continuing to develop your skills during your working career.”

The NOCN Skills Passport is more than just a record of qualifications. It’s a tool for career development, a way to chart pathways through promotion and professional growth. “And I think that’s the legacy we want to create,” says Hasting-Evans.

But this legacy also focuses on equipping individuals for a rapidly changing world. “It’s there to sustain and help us with a world which has got more technology, AI, net zero sustainability, and flexibility, with people being more global in terms of their skills and moving perhaps on the planet more.”

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Authored By

Gary Ellis
Senior Editor
June 11th 2024, 7:02am

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