Last year's big apprenticeships push by the government was meat and drink for Alan Crawford, Chief Information Officer at educational organisation City & Guilds. His team developed online platforms for a swathe of businesses and training providers registering new apprenticeship courses with City & Guilds, and started new product development for end-point assessments.

Indeed, the organisation has been in expansion mode for years, with two acquisitions in 2017 adding to six other recent additions. To deliver product and service scalability, Crawford goes "all in" on public hyper-scale cloud, which also brings opex savings and avoids the need for capital investment to replace legacy hardware.

At the same his team has continued to develop digital products for City & Guilds' technical qualifications. An example is an e-portfolio product called Learning Assistant, which allows students to upload evidence (including video) online or via a mobile app. Digital is the future for demonstrating vocational skills and achievements, and in 2017 Crawford combined City & Guild's learning management platform with its partner credentials platform to allow learners to publish their validated achievements as digital badges on their social media profiles.

He is particularly proud of championing an AI initiative in 2017 to learn from the organisation's large data sets. The IT team is working on a learning analytics discovery project, to find out, for example, what happens to learners after they gain a qualification. He has also invested in an algorithm startup to automate learning recommendations and make training content more relevant and engaging.