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Our People – Cogent Skills

Our People

Our dedicated team are here to help.



Joanna started her career as an engineering apprentice at Simon Engineering, Cheadle, where she studied for an OND. She is a firm advocate of the apprenticeship route to develop jobs and careers and is now proud to lead a company at the forefront of developing Apprenticeships throughout the science-based industries.

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. After switching to global business management within the ICI Chlor chemicals downstream business, Joanna moved into strategic supply chain global logistics.

She studied for her MBA at Manchester Business School, before joining Hays Chemicals as Manufacturing Director in 2000. The Hays business was acquired by Albion Inorganic Chemicals where Joanna fulfilled the role of Operations Director. She joined Cogent Skills as CEO in 2005.


Justine Fosh


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

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 an 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.


Steve Smith

Managing Director of SIAS

Steve joined SIAS in January 2022 as Managing Director and is responsible for setting and implementing the strategic direction. Steve is passionate about vocational education and skills and is focused at all times on creating a dynamic and fresh approach to assessment whilst maintaining quality and fantastic customer service.  Steve has worked in the skills and awarding sector since 2008, previously holding senior leadership positions at global brands such as Cambridge Assessment, NCC Education and ABE, where he has been instrumental in driving forward growth and implementing positive organisational change.

Always results-driven, Steve enjoys structuring collaborations, partnerships and joint ventures that create value at scale, and has a successful track record in building successful business relationships across both the public and private sectors in the UK and globally, always putting customers’ needs at the heart of his approach.


Tina Sawyer

Head of Membership & Strategy

Tina is an experienced policy maker with 15 years’ experience of working in Whitehall across five government departments and in the No. 10 Policy Unit. A specialist in government relations and public policy, Tina is a former Principal Private Secretary and a former Director of Pharmaceuticals, having responsibility for the top strategic investors in science in the UK, reporting directly to the Secretary of State for Business. The last 8 years have been spent in the private sector delivering skills solutions for industry by developing propositions, influencing and setting the strategic direction for technical skills investment.


Alex Slater

Head of Operations, Courses & Consultancy

Alex is the Head of Operations for the Consultancy and Courses Business Unit in Darlington overseeing the annual delivery of over £1.3m of regulatory training. As an ACCA Qualified Accountant, management professional and coach, Alex has worked in Operational and financial management in the skills provision industry for the last 22 years, having previously been the Finance & Operations Manager for a northern training provider managing 1000+ apprentices.


Neil Smith

Head of Workforce Development

Neil leads on the development and delivery of our competence management, bespoke training solutions and workforce development consultancy services. Following on from a 14 year career as an Aircraft Engineering Artificer in the Royal Navy, he has spent the last 26 years supporting the development of workforce skills across a range of manufacturing industry sectors, joining Cogent Skills in 2008, leading our Process Safety Management programme activities since 2010 and competence management support services from 2015.

Neil was instrumental in developing the PSM programme, its training standards, delivery network and quality assured provision, and continues to work closely with employers and subject matter experts to design and develop a range of bespoke training and competence assessment solutions.


Nick Durrington

Managing Director Cogent Skills Apprenticeship & Graduate Business

Nick leads the Cogent Skills Apprenticeship and Graduate Business Unit and has extensive knowledge of the skills and training arena, having worked with a range of providers and partner organisations.

Previously Nick worked at Northern Training and before that he was a Business Adviser at Business Link. He spent some time at the Greater Manchester Chamber in a face to face consulting role working with small, medium and large business in the Greater Manchester area helping to force skills levels up and increase the uptake of training opportunities under Apprenticeships and NVQs.