With a passion for and a commitment to training others, Gareth Luke explains how he got into teaching others, the future of apprenticeships in the UK, and where he sees the business in 5 years' time.
What is it the company does?
CMS Vocational Training and CMS Fitness Courses is a training and apprenticeship provider to a variety of small, medium and large employers across West Yorkshire. We offer entry level training for young people aged 16-18 right up to senior level including health and fitness, accountancy and management qualifications.
In the last two years alone we’ve helped over 500 learners achieve an intermediate, advanced or higher apprenticeship and supported over 200 learners in gaining qualifications to move into a new sector or upskill to promote career progression.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As MD, I agree business strategy with the CMS board and oversee its implementation. I look after the quality of delivery of our training and apprenticeships as well as the expansion of our business which includes bringing new products to market.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I left Teesside University with a Degree in Sports Science and, after a brief stint working in a warehouse, completed my personal trainer qualifications whilst working in a gym. I progressed from personal trainer to National Training Manager for a chain of health clubs delivering training for all sites across the country. Around this time I started working with CMS Vocational Training and had the idea to expand their health and fitness provision and then joined them full-time. I completed my PGCE and started CMS Fitness Courses, developing their commercial training and then expanding into health and fitness apprenticeships. Since then I’ve diversified our offering with the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Passion, direction, clarity of vision, enthusiasm – how will you get anyone else to believe in you and your vision if you don’t believe in it yourself? Leaders of small businesses in particular need to be passionate, agile and flexible.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The new Apprenticeship Levy which came into force last April kick-started a time of huge change for us as apprenticeship providers and continues to have implications for all employers. It’s been an exciting time but also a time of uncertainty whilst the changes bed in. We’ve been working to support all of our clients through the changes, and continue to do so, whilst adapting our own business as well.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I make the most of my weekends – Friday evenings and Saturdays are a chance to unwind and spend time with the family. That said, I’m passionate about what I do and working through tasks and challenges actually alleviates any stress. I find my work extremely rewarding, you spend at least half of your life at work so it’s important to do something you love and which gives you purpose, alongside your family.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was about seven I wanted to be a stunt man! Then I fancied being a professional rugby player but a back injury got in the way (so I think). However, I’ve still managed to work in the fitness industry throughout my career so I can’t complain.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
People who aren’t committed to their jobs. Do something that you love or at least like, you are going to spend a lot of time at work so you might as well enjoy it. I advise people to take time to work out what they are interested in doing and then go and do it! Life’s too short.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Well, we will potentially have a new Government within five years so this could change again; but hopefully the Apprenticeship Levy will be bedded in by then and we’ll continue to grow the apprenticeship side of our business. We also want to continue to grow our offer in accountancy, leadership and management training as well as further growth for CMS Fitness Courses.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Get the right people around you as you can’t do it on your own. You need a core team that you know and trust to set the culture for the company and the standard everyone should aspire to. Employ the right people by taking on those who are willing to listen, learn and develop and who are passionate about working hard.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Never write anything off - when I was working as a personal trainer in gyms I saw the managers filling out their paperwork and thought that wouldn’t be for me – then an opportunity came up and I became a manager and I’ve never looked back. Throughout my career I’ve kept learning, whether on-the-job or formally through different qualifications and this definitely opens new doors and keeps it interesting.