28th February 2020 Written by Skills for Health

John Rogers

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.” — Brian Tracy

What you may not know, is John’s extensive professional journey to where he is today. As many of you know, John Rogers is our Chief Executive at the Workforce Development Trust (WDT), having started Skills for Health (SfH) 18 years ago.


From then, he has facilitated the growth of the organisation through partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, all in aid of helping to support more organisations across the public sector. Through reading John’s blog below, you very quickly get a sense of his passion for supporting the organisations we work with to achieve their goals, and that this desire remains as strong as it was when we first began.

  • What experiences led you to work for WDT?

I have worked in “workforce development” virtually all of my working life. My degree thesis was on youth unemployment – and the positive impact of education and training. Not surprisingly, my first job after graduating was as a Youth Training Officer at one of the “old” industry training boards (ITB). I progressed within the ITB to lead on the development of some of the very early competence frameworks – using them to introduce the first work-based assessed qualifications (circa 1987) and setting up the ITB as an awarding body.

I joined the NHS Training Authority (NHSTA) in 1990 (I can’t believe it is 30 years ago!!) and implemented many of the competence/work-based assessment approaches that I had worked on at the ITB across the NHS/health sector. I then worked on a whole range of national workforce development initiatives at the NHSTA; everything from national management development programmes, through to Ambulance Service Qualifications and other open learning programmes.

Following the 4th reincarnation of the NHSTA, I left the organisation as Director of Operations in 1995/6 to work on national workforce development strategies for the Department of Health - working with the NHS Executive Board in those days.

In 2000 I was asked to undertake a secondment to Healthwork UK (the national training organisation for health) as the Acting CEO  – to turn-around what was seen as a failing organisation, and a year later I set up “Skills for Health” (to supersede Healthwork UK) as the new Sector Skills Council for Health.

Many of you probably know the rest; the rapid growth of SfH to 2009, the impact of the financial crash and gradual withdrawal of our public funding by 2013. The subsequent move to becoming a not-for-profit, then mergers with Skills for Justice (and sister organisation SFJ Awards), and People 1st International. So, whilst there have been 18 years at Skills for Health and the Workforce Development Trust (20 years if you include the preparation phase!), there have been at least 4 different jobs/challenges/transitions along the way, to where we are today.

  • What does an average day look like for you?

I think that most of us would say that there is no such thing as an “average” day at the WDT – which is a great part of what attracts us to our job. An average week/month is likely to include a mixture of attending and contributing to workshops, speaking at external events, supporting the team at our own events, writing Board papers and of course attending a range of meetings.

  • What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy 95% of my job – so in some ways, it would be easier to answer the things that I do not enjoy - specifically difficult decisions that impact our people.

I‘m fortunate that I enjoy a whole range of activities as Chief Exec – analysis, strategy, working with staff and problem-solving. However, probably the most rewarding aspect is when you can see a direct link between our activity and the impact on people development and service improvement further down the line. The one standout feelgood day is our annual Our Health Heroes awards ceremony, held every autumn to recognise the thousands of support staff working in healthcare.

  • What upcoming projects are you working on?

We’re just about to complete on an exciting new acquisition and we’re currently revisiting where we go next, with our current and future investments, together with the WDT Board

  • In a perfect world…

Firstly, my family would be forever happy, employers would see workforce development as an investment, rather than a cost, and business development would be easy. Other than that, Barnsley would win more than 50% of their games (I would say win the Premier League – but just trying to stay with reality!).