• Apprentices
    & Graduates
  • Consultancy
    & Courses

Our Board – Cogent Skills

Our Board

The Cogent Skills Board comprises highly experienced science and nuclear industry professionals who hold senior positions in Sector-based employers and Trade Bodies. The Board normally meets four times a year and ad hoc as is required.

The Cogent Skills Board oversees our strategy, approves our business plans and any key companywide decisions, and monitors our performance.

Tony Burke

Unite Assistant General Secretary

Tony Burke is an Assistant General Secretary at Unite. A trade unionist for over 45 years. Tony was previously the Deputy General Secretary of the GPMU.

He is a member of the General Council and Executive Committee of the TUC, a member of the Labour Party NPF and represents the TUC on Cogent and represents Unite within the international Trade Union movement.

He is a member of the Board of the Peoples Press Printing Society and is the Trade Union coordinator for the Morning Star newspaper.


Joanna Woolf


Joanna Woolf was born in Bollington and went to Macclesfield High School for girls in Cheshire.   During her engineering apprenticeship at Simon Engineering, Cheadle, she studied for an OND.   After graduating with a First in Mechanical Engineering from UMIST in 1982, Joanna entered BP’s graduate programme, spending 12 months establishing the oil terminal at Sullom Voe in the Shetlands; her career at BP culminated in a head office role working on speculative oil finds for potential sites around the globe.

Moving to ICI, Joanna began at the Wilton site as plant manager in Advanced Business Materials, and then moved to the Runcorn site to set up turnaround programmes.    At the age of 29 she was promoted to Engineering Manager, holding responsibility for 600 people across all trades and disciplines, and tasked with establishing a site training organisation and training to NVQ standards with TTE at Ellesmere Port.   After switching to global business management within the ICI Chlor chemicals downstream business, Joanna moved into strategic supply chain global logistics.

She attained her MBA at Manchester Business School, before joining Hays Chemicals as Manufacturing Director in 2000.   The Hays business has since been acquired by Albion Inorganic Chemicals where Joanna fulfilled the role of Operations Director, which she held until accepting the post of Chief Executive with Cogent.


Katie Woods-Ruddick

Head of Human Resources, px group

Katie Woods-Ruddick is Head of HR at px which provides operations management, engineering services and energy management solutions to partners in highly regulated industries, has been appointed to the Board of Cogent Skills.

She represents the skills interests of members of The Tank Storage Association (TSA) who are engaged in the storage of bulk liquids such as crude oil, petroleum and chemicals and the provision of related products and services to a range of industrial sectors.

Katie’s position with the px group means that she brings insight into key focus areas across the sector including includes apprenticeships, process safety, engineering skills, and competence management.

Before joining px, Katie held senior HR positions in the travel industry and she holds a BA Hons in Education. She is a member of the px Executive Team, providing HR direction to the business in line with its strategy.


Steve Elliott

Chief Executive, Chemical Industries Association

Steve Elliott joined the Chemical Industries Association in 1997, spending four and half years as Head, International Trade with additional responsibility for Sustainable Development. In April 2002, he was promoted to the position of Director, Trade & Competitiveness and subsequently Director, Business Environment. Steve was appointed Chief Executive of the CIA in February 2006.

Steve possesses a First class BA (Hons) degree from Nottingham Trent University, and is an Associate Fellow of the IChemE. Prior to his career with CIA, he spent fifteen years working with the DTI, a South African trade advisory body and Crown Agents as an international trade policy and promotion specialist, as well as in general consultancy with Price Waterhouse.

Steve currently sits on the Board of the Involvement and Participation Association (an employee relations think-tank), is a Trustee of CogentSkills, a member of the Process Safety Management Competence Board, Chair of the Energy Intensive Users’ Group, and is involved with a number of committees within Cefic (the European Chemical Industry Council). Former roles include President of the European Chemical Employers Group.

Married with two children, Steve is manager of a local youth football team and a supporter of Manchester City Football Club.


Simon Earp

Deputy Director Pre-Operations, Hinkley Point C, United Kingdom

Simon is currently the EDF Energy Deputy Pre-Operations Director at Hinkley Point C, responsible for establishing and implementing the operational capability for Hinkley Point C leading to initial commercial operation of the Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station.

Simon is the UK expert representative on the IAEA Human Resources Training Working Group, a Board member of Cogent Skills, and a member of the Nuclear Training Standards Accreditation Board.

Simon had 35 years’ industry experience in Operations, Maintenance and Training fields including authorisations as a senior reactor operator in the UK and USA on AGR and PWR reactor plants.

He is a Chartered Engineer and Member of the Institution of Electrical Technology: BSc (Hons.) CEng MIET


Nick Gardiner

Chief Operations Officer, BioIndustry Association

Nick joined the BIA as COO in October 2014, bringing with him extensive industry and not-for-profit management experience. Nick is responsible for overseeing the BIA’s operations, with specific responsibility for financial systems, office management, governance issues and human resources.

Prior to his current role he ran the Clinical Laboratory Division of Lab21. This involved providing specialist laboratory services to the healthcare, pharmaceutical and clinical trials markets. He also has extensive experience of diagnostic testing within the HIV and HCV disease areas. This was gained through being a member of the senior management team and building Delphic Diagnostics into a one-stop-shop for NHS clinicians, enabling more effective patient monitoring and subsequent treatment options in these diseases.

Nick also has extensive management experience within the not-for-profit sector, working for a trade body representing and building the profile of the business communication industry.


Mike Barber

HR Director – Group People Strategy and Corporate Centre, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)

Mike joined the NDA in October 2017 and holds accountability for the NDA Group’s People Strategy and the ‘One NDA’ strategic agenda.

He is a CIPD qualified HR professional with a BA (Hons) degree in Human Resources Management and an MSc in HR and Industrial Relations.

Mike has a wealth of senior-level HR and transformation experience gained from multiple industry sectors – having held roles at Colgate Palmolive, Co-operative, O2 UK and Shop Direct.

Mike lives in Cheshire with his wife and 2 daughters.


Colin Reed

Chair of NSAN (National Skills Academy for Nuclear)

Colin has accepted the invitation to join the Cogent Skills Board in association with his role as Chair of NSAN (National Skills Academy for Nuclear). Colin’s background is a Human Resources specialist most recently at Sellafield Limited including four years as HR Director during which time he was a Director of NSAN and Chair of the National College for Nuclear. Prior to Sellafield Colin held Human Resources and Employee Relations roles in a number of different industries including Shipbuilding, Engineering, Mining and power generation and along with Jill his wife ran an HR consultancy.


Justine Fosh

CEO of Cogent Skills

Justine Fosh moved from her role as Chief Executive of The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink to the role of  CEO of Cogent Skills in May 2020.

Previously she spent 15 years working in commercial positions in food and drink manufacturing companies including Sara Lee, Grolsch, McCain and Uniq before moving to LearnDirect business. She joined Improve and established their National Skills Academy for Food & Drink as a successful stand alone commercial business.

She is a graduate in Industrial Relations and Marketing from Strathclyde University.


Karl Gorge

Director of Finance, Business Functions and Company Secretary of Cogent Skills

Karl graduated with a BA Honours in Accounting and qualified as an accountant (FCCA) whilst working in Industry. He has over 19 years experience of working within commercial manufacturing organisations with 13 of those years being within the Polymer Industry.

Karl came from The Vita group (the largest global Foaming operator with over 140 operational sites in 22 countries, employing over 14,500 employees) where he was the UK Financial Director for the Technical Foams Division. In this role, he was responsible for the financial control and commercial insight into the UK’s performance and the implications of its commercial and strategic decisions.

Prior to this, he was the European Financial Controller within the group covering operations in France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Karl has a proven track record of managing and delivering change and has in-depth knowledge and experience of working within SME, PLC and Private Equity environments.

Key experiences have included consolidating operations, IT implementations and the building of efficient teams, whilst improving the quality of management information and integrating finance within the wider business community.

Karl joined Cogent as Finance Director in 2008.


Liz Collins

Executive Director, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pfizer

Liz first joined Pfizer as part of her undergraduate degree program, working in early drug product development. Upon completion of her Bachelors and Ph.D. degrees, she re-joined Pfizer in 2002 as a formulation lead for the Biologics group in the UK and led a team developing monoclonal antibody formulations for early clinical studies. Since that time, Liz has held a number of positions across the pharmaceutical sciences business in scientific leadership and management roles.  In early 2021, Liz progressed into an Executive Director role with matrix accountability for the pharmaceutical sciences business in the anti-infective category.  This included leading the pharmaceutical development of Paxlovid™ (Covid anti-viral).

In addition to these project responsibilities, Liz leads the global pharmaceutical sciences (PS) equity council and sits on the global PS leadership team.  Having been a member of the MMIP skills group for a number of years, Liz took over leadership of this group at the end of 2022 and joined the MMIP LT.  Liz also represents ABPI as a board member of Cogent Skills.

Liz has a BSc from Loughborough University in Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and a Ph.D. from the Welsh School of Pharmacy in Non-viral Gene Delivery to the Lung.