Pursuing a passion and changing lives; why InterLearn was founded

27th May 2020

As the company fast approaches its third birthday, InterLearn’s co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Craig Hughes, was asked by a member of the team to explain why he initially wanted to get involved in setting up a training provider business. On hearing his reasons, we just had to capture them and share them. Here’s what he told us.

“Looking back, I realise that I didn’t do well in school because it wasn’t the right environment for me; I didn’t (and still don’t) thrive in a formal, chalk & talk classroom setting. So I left as soon as I could at 16 and joined the Forces, where I saw a different way of learning, in that if you’re good at something, it naturally emerges and you can make something of it, and ultimately, with your life. The impact can be amazing. For me, this is the same with apprenticeships and adult learning. I have seen, during my time in the sector, the impact that this type of vocational education can have, and if you follow what you’re passionate about, get the qualifications and progress, it will change your life.

Having been a coach/trainer, departmental head and operational lead working for others, I know I’ve helped people do this. But setting up InterLearn was my chance to take that further, to be more involved and influence it, and that’s what I wanted to do. We should not only encourage this thinking in younger people but also those who’ve been in work for some time, who might only realise at a later date what they are good at or decide that they want to make the most of a passion.

An example I always think about is one of the first apprentices I supported when I was the Head of a Health & Social Care division within a training provider. He was on a Health & Social Care apprenticeship and hated it, so he was failing at it, and no matter how much I tried to help, encourage or motivate, it didn’t make a difference. But what I did learn by spending time with him was where his real passion lay, and that was in repairing bikes; he became animated when he talked about it and I could see this is what he loved. So, despite affecting my performance in terms of my H&SC stats, I managed to find him an apprenticeship in a charity shop recycling bikes. He now has four bike shops of his own. Need I say more. That is what it’s all about, getting to the bottom of what makes someone tick, finding someone’s passion and using an apprenticeship to realise it. That story, and many like it, have stuck with me throughout my career and are my passion. So I’ve channelled that into the business we’re in, so it can benefit hundreds of people to fulfil their ambitions and become accomplished doing something they love.

I refer back to my earlier Forces analogy to reiterate this thinking. Not everyone liked the concept of the National Service, as it was obligatory and required people to serve their country, to sign up to one of the forces. But while it was tough, once an individual had demonstrated discipline, they were then able to move into a specific trade, one identified as being right for them and their character and disposition. Invariably, this trade would be something in which they then excelled, it released a mechanism for their passion, be that a plant operator or a chef. So many people left the forces with a true skill and speciality under their belt to apply to a ‘civilian’ role, and it served them well.

Again, I remember my very first apprentice who I helped when I first joined the sector in hospitality. He was on a Level 2 in Food Prep & Catering and while he could barely remember his own house number, he could certainly cook. And that’s what I drew out of him; his passion and love of cooking. Now he’s the Exec Chef at the O2 Arena. I love these memories, and as I said, there are hundreds more of them, and I hope thousands still to come. I still enjoy hearing about our achievers every day and make sure that their stories are part of our regular leadership team meetings, to remind us why we do what we do. So there you have it; that’s exactly why I wanted to set up InteLearn and to help run a business that enables this to happen.”

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