Estio Training (Palatine)

by James Gregson, impact fund partner. Estio is a Leeds-based IT and digital apprenticeships training provider, with a national sales presence across England. We invested in Estio Training in September 2018, marking the third investment from our Impact fund. We saw an opportunity with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, which allowed large businesses to choose their training provider, as opposed to contract value being allocated.

Online shift

When we invested in the business, the operating model was a blended classroom delivery method, with some online training. Outside of the classroom, skills coaches would drive across counties to see learners during the day and prior to our investment, our initial ESG assessment revealed that this team was travelling half a million miles per annum.

That was a lot of time spent on the road, which harmed the amount of interactions that could take place, alongside a negative environmental impact. We transitioned the model to be purely online, meaning the interactions were of better quality and the learners had more frequent touch-points. The lessened travel also reduced the CO2 emissions from driving by 94%.

Social access

During the investment period, we worked closely with Estio’s co-founder and CEO to scale the business, while also promoting a shared agenda of improving social inclusion, diversity and accessibility to education.

Estio achieved positive outcomes in a number of areas during our investment, including first-time end-point assessment pass rates increasing to 95%, the number of female enrolments increasing by 40% and the proportion of learners residing in areas of deprivation increasing to 35%.

We significantly strengthened the senior leadership team during our investment, bringing in a range of expertise, with senior education leader Nichola Hay MBE appointed as COO in 2019, to specifically focus on curriculum and the quality of delivery. Alongside her, we appointed a chief financial officer and chief people officer.

To improve inclusivity, we would go into universities and all-girls schools to give presentations to champion careers in IT and digital. This reached new audiences, from both a socioeconomic and gender perspective.

We also expanded the number of programmes available, from eight to 11. That gave learners more options and broadness in what we could teach, driving greater access to careers in IT and digital.

Palatine exited Estio Training in October 2021 with a trade sale to BPP Education Group.