Coleg Cambria Chief Executive says goodbye: “We’ve achieved so much and put education in this region on the map”
The chief executive of Coleg Cambria has received widespread praise from leading figures across the country as he enters his final week in the role.
David Jones was formerly principal of Deeside College before its merger with Wrexham’s Yale College – and later Llysfasi and Northop – in 2013.
A champion of work-based learning, apprenticeships, fundraising and accessible education for people of all ages, the 57-year-old has made a vast contribution to shaping the careers of tens of thousands of youngsters and mature learners over more than two decades.
This week he will step down from the role of chief executive having overseen the creation of Coleg Cambria and the unveiling of over £60m of new facilities – £21 million of which have gone into the refurb of the Wrexham campus.
Admitting he leaves with a “heavy heart” but “incredibly proud” of how far the college has come, he said: “It’s a strange feeling leaving after 20 years but the time is right for me to move ahead in my life and take on new challenges.
“When I arrived in 1999 I didn’t know the area but was immediately made to feel welcome; the people here in north east Wales are so passionate and positive, they have a unique attitude and I have tried to tap into that, making many friends along the way.
“I’m of course going to miss everybody but am moving onto new things. I’m not retiring I’m full of energy and ideas and it’s time to channel that into new ventures.”
Mr Jones added: “We’ve achieved so much and put education in this region on the map. As a result, Coleg Cambria is known across the UK, which is amazing as it didn’t even exist in 2012.”
The dad-of-four will be as busy as ever, taking over the chairmanship of Qualifications Wales, launching a new consultancy business and as non-executive director of DECA (Defence Electronics and Components Agency) in Deeside.
“I’m particularly looking forward to my role with DECA as it gets me back into electronics, which is where my career started,” he said.
“I’ll also be continuing my charity work for NSPCC Cymru as part of their Appeals Board and have many other projects up my sleeve, so there’s no danger of me slowing down.
“I love reading, walking and gardening but I’m not ready to put my feet up just yet!”
Leaders from across Wales paid tribute to Mr Jones, including Lord Barry Jones, who celebrates 50 years in Westminster next year.
He said: “David has made huge contribution to the economic resurgence of north east Wales.
“He has delivered apprenticeships galore and built up Coleg Cambria into one of the best FE institutions in England and Wales. Cambria has become an instrument for good and David deserves a great send off and a big thank you.”
“We would like to thank David for the leadership, friendship and vision he has shown as Principal and now Chief Executive of Cambria,” said John Clutton, chair of the Governing Body at Coleg Cambria.
“His legacy will be the outstanding success that students of the college have achieved locally, nationally and internationally during his tenure. In addition, the support and opportunities provided to local businesses and organisations have been equally impressive. His influence and achievements are immeasurable, and he will be sorely missed by us all.”
Minister for Economy and North Wales, Ken Skates AM: “David’s influence on education, industry and North Wales as a whole, cannot be underestimated.
“He has successfully led the mergers that resulted in the creation of Coleg Cambria and leaves the college in a strong position, as work continues on the £21m redevelopment of the Yale site in Wrexham. Coleg Cambria is a leading tertiary college that as a result of David’s leadership and vision has established strong and constructive relationships with all partners including government and businesses.
“I’m certain he will continue to champion North Wales as he embarks on new challenges for the future, and I wish him all the best.”
Mr Jones’ achievements include winning the TES Leader of the Year Award in 2017, laying the foundations for a strong Worldskills legacy and helping the college raise more than £115,000 for NSPCC Cymru in an incredible year in which he and wife Julia walked 48 miles across three counties in just 14 hours.
A native of Ciliau Aeron in Ceredigion, the former chair of both North Wales CBI and Deeside Enterprise Zone will be succeeded by Yanina Williams, currently CEO of Hugh Baird College Liverpool.
Mr Jones received an OBE from the Prince of Wales in 2015 for services to further education in north east Wales and has led Cambria to a position of financial strength, employing up to 1,000 people and pumping more than £400m into the local economy.
He has also instilled a commitment to diversity, health and wellbeing, and unveiled more than £60m of new facilities in five years, but his proudest moment of all came in 2007.
“I had been working at the college for a few years and for three years as Principal and Chief Executive and felt that we had not capitalised on our full potential,” he said.
“We started to look at the culture of the college – it was Deeside at that point – and began to unite everyone, get them pushing in the same direction, and a lot of time was spent working together with the same vision.
“By the end of 2007 we had two Estyn inspections, one for our main FE provision and one for apprenticeships, and we got what was then the best possible grades you could achieve for both, which had never been done in the UK before.
“That was the starting point and built the momentum for what was to follow, a workforce filled with confidence and togetherness – that same ethos and attitude has carried through to Coleg Cambria.
“We have the most brilliant team here; I can’t praise them enough.”
Mr Jones added: “I wish Yanina every success for the future, I know she will do an incredible job.
“From a distance I look forward to watching the continued growth of Coleg Cambria and am sure it will remain at the top where it belongs.
“This is an amazing college, there are fantastic opportunities ahead and I would like to thank every member of staff, every student, governor and partner organisation I’ve worked with over the last 20 years for your love and support – I will miss you all.”
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