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Industry & Enterprise


Diane Vernon MBE

CEO Employability UK

Di has more than 25 years of corporate business experience from BT and O2, in a wide range of roles, including delivering BT’s education and community programmes.

In 2005 Di joined Career Academies UK where she was responsible for developing their regional strategy and delivering the national programme. Having built a team of regional managers and taken the programme to all parts of the UK she went on to become Director of Business Development.

In 2014 Di created the award-winning charity - EmployabilityUK. This volunteer-led organisation has designed and delivered employability skills programmes to thousands of young people, improving their confidence, motivation and work readiness.  The employability skills programme Di designed for The Coventry won the BitC Responsible Business Award for Education Partnerships in 2018. There was further recognition when EmployabilityUK was a proud recipient of the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2021.  

Di has held a significant number of volunteering roles including fundraising for mental health charities and 6 years as a Special Constable with West Midlands Police. She is on various boards and committees and has served as an independent Parish Councillor.

Di’s commitment to advancing opportunities for young people was recognised in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Honours in 2022, when she was awarded an MBE. In 2024 Di became a Fellow of the Institute of Employability Professionals.

At EmployabilityUK we share the values of the Future Forward conference. “By bringing together everyone who has a stake in the success of our young people, we can better prepare them for the future.”


I am personally delighted to support this important work and it’s wonderful to see the conference go from strength to strength in its 3rd year. 

Chris White

Director of Industrial Policy and Insight Centre, MTC

Chris is the Director of the Industrial Policy Research Centre (IPRC) at Loughborough University, a member of the Executive of the Manufacturing Technology Centre (part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult network), and was the Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington, 2010-2017.


As an MP, he was a member of both the International Development and Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Select Committees and chaired the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Manufacturing and Social Enterprise.


Prior to joining the MTC, Chris was the Director of the Institute for Industrial Strategy at King’s College, London.


Amongst other roles, Chris is the Vice Chair of the Board of Governors of the Warwickshire College Group, Senior Visiting Fellow in the Department of Engineering, City, University of London, a member of the Economic Policy Committee, Make UK, and a member of the Manufacturing Policy Panel at the IET.

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Hayley Peacock

 North London Collegiate School Headmistress

What’s the point of school?


This talk by Founder of Atelier 21, Hayley Peacock, explains the school's revolutionary educational approach to learning which amplifies student voice and choice through self-directed learning and a democratic system, where children and teenagers govern the many facets of running the school day to day. Hayley explains how the school's real-world project-based learning helps pupils develop the dispositions of a life-long learner. This is achieved through promoting a ‘learning to learn’ attitude of self-reflection and self-adjustment, by facilitating student agency, innovation, curiosity and creativity.


Hayley Peacock - Pioneering School and Early Years Educator and Entrepreneur
Hayley’s personal mission is to ‘change a million children’s lives, to start..’ Following 13 years of founding and running the internationally acclaimed and award-winning group of Early Years
Centres, Little Barn Owls, in 2020, Hayley founded the pioneering Atelier 21 Future School, an independent school for students 4-16 years that co-operates as a mainstream school and research
centre providing professional development worldwide. Atelier 21 was born out of Hayley's deep connection with the Reggio Emilia Approach to learning.

Chris Anders

More to be revealed
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Founder & CEO, Skills Builder Partnership

Tom founded the Skills Builder Partnership in 2009, whilst a secondary school teacher in Hackney.


The Skills Builder Partnership brings together a global group of more than 800 partners around a common language and approach to building essential skills like teamwork, communication, and self-management.


The Partnership, which includes educators, employers and impact organisations, delivered 2.3 million opportunities to build those skills in 2021-22.

The approach that Tom pioneered has now been widely adopted in the UK, and is being replicated in seven further countries – Czechia, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Egypt, Pakistan, and India.


The Partnership won the UK Social Enterprise Award for Impact in 2017 and is a WISE Award Finalist for 2022.


Tom was the 2009 UK Entrepreneurship Teacher of the Year. He has served as a non-executive director of Teach First and has also been recognised as one of the UK’s leading social entrepreneurs by being elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2017. He holds a BA in Economics & Management from the University of Oxford.

Max Kelly

Director & Co-Founder, Connexus

Max Kelly is the co-founder of Connexus, a startup in the education and social mobility sector. Since it was founded, the Connexus has delivered programmes to over 150 pupils from 50 schools and colleges in the state and independent sector, working with major employers including EY, Citi, Novartis, and Zoom. The company supports schools by connecting pupils and teachers to talent and expertise across other industries, through a range of programmes focused on academic enrichment, careers guidance, professional development, and university access support. 


Max grew-up in the North East of England and is in his final year reading History and Politics at the University of Oxford. He is also a governor at two schools in Oxford and Teesside. 

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