Mirror Review’s latest story sheds light on the life and work of an Influential Education Leader who has transformed countless lives through the power of education. Luke Whiting (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Yarway Group) is well-known for his success in chairing, leading, and running startups and scale-ups across a range of industries, including Healthtech, Adtech, Hospitality-tech, and service businesses. With valuations exceeding £20m, Luke has established himself as a true visionary, providing inspirational leadership, corporate governance, and strategic oversight to each venture he embarks upon.
However, it was Luke’s passion to create a meaningful impact on people, places, and the planet that led him to set up Yarway Group. This mission-driven organization is focused on leveraging education as a vehicle for positive change, inspiring individuals to reach their full potential and create a better world for all. In this story, Luke shared his unique leadership philosophy, which has been the driving force behind his success.
From Sport and Business Psychology to Education Leader Extraordinaire
Luke is a qualified Sport and Business Performance Psychologist who embarked on his first journey of self-employment at the young age of 23. His work with high performers and elite individuals led him to feel a calling from God to support the disadvantaged and marginalized.
Luke responded to this calling by setting up his first education business within Alternative Provision. His business supported school children at risk of exclusion, those with SEND (Special educational needs and disability), along with challenging behaviors and mental health issues. Although it was a tough endeavor, he found it incredibly rewarding.
“Education is so much more than imparting knowledge, it’s about cultivating an environment to give people hope and a future, and to support them in their own unique way to live healthy and fruitful lives and to thrive,” says Luke.
His passion for education stems from his difficult upbringing in a single-parent household, where he lost his father at a young age. His teachers played an instrumental role in guiding, supporting, and caring for him, sparking a lifelong commitment to paying it forward.
In 2018, Luke expanded into post-16 education through Yarway Group, and the rest is history. He is inspired by the work that Yarway Group and their subsidiary businesses do in changing people’s lives through the vehicle of education.
Yarway Group: Revolutionizing Education with Christian Values
Yarway Group is a group of companies founded in the United Kingdom in 2018. The group operates on Christian values and aims to make an eternal impact on people’s lives through the vehicle of education. Their core values are the driving force behind their decision-making process, and their team is invested in making a difference in the lives of young people. The group is determined to expand its international presence, aiming to make a positive impact on people’s lives across the world.
Yarway Group has four subsidiary businesses, all of which operate across the UK and overseas, and provide complementary industry-specific education and training services, such as:
- Revelation Academy: It provides professional service training.
- Heathercroft Training Academy: It offers Health and Social Care and Childcare programs.
- Active Learning and Development: It delivers leadership and management training.
- Mindflex: It is an award-winning provider of Digital, IT, and Technology programs.
Furthermore, the group provides government-funded training through apprenticeships, adult education, traineeships, and advanced learner loans for individuals aged 16-65.
Leading Yarway Group to Greater Heights
Luke, as the Chief Executive of the institute, holds a crucial role in setting the vision and strategy of the organization, ensuring that they remain ahead of the curve and fulfill God’s vision for the company. He is committed to continuing to build an international presence and changing people’s lives through education.
As the driving force behind the institute, Luke’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the vision and strategy inform key business objectives outlined in their business plan. His emotional intelligence has shaped his approach to leadership. He believes that achieving a collective goal through the ‘fruits of the spirit’ is essential, ensuring that the organization operates on a foundation of integrity, faith, and love.
Meeting the Evolving Needs of Students
Luke acknowledges that education goes beyond providing academic programs or training. It is about providing holistic support to individuals, which can take many forms, such as counseling, mentoring, friendship, guardianship, or discipline. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly affected people’s well-being and mental health, leading to a shift in students’ requirements. Individuals have put their lives on hold for several years, and their needs have changed.
As an educational leader, Luke understands the importance of responding to these changing requirements. His focus is on supporting, guiding, and motivating individuals to aspire and achieve their goals and purpose, both professionally and personally. He aims to build a collection of organizations that help individuals define who they are and get to where they want to be in life.
Navigating Uncertainty with Agile Thinking and Innovation
Led by CEO Luke, Yarway Group understands the importance of being agile and innovative in the education industry. They have identified the need to be able to pivot and make key decisions in response to changes in government policy and funding. The company has built a sustainable and scalable business model that de-risks its position and leverages its group support services, mitigating any downturn in one area.
When faced with the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic, Yarway Group pivoted their delivery model to e-learning within 48 hours, demonstrating their ability to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity. “In turn, this has allowed us to look at how we operate best for both the interests of our service users and our business,” adds Luke. Looking ahead, the organization remains committed to pushing boundaries and finding innovative solutions to the challenges they face, while continuing to prioritize the holistic well-being and development of its students.
Fruits of the Spirit
Luke finds his role model and inspiration in Jesus Christ. He strives to emulate Jesus as a leader in every way possible. As an entrepreneur, he understands that ego can often cloud good judgment when making decisions for the business. He believes leading by the “fruits of the spirit” and adopting a servant leadership philosophy, can help overcome any challenge. “I see myself as a steward for God’s business,” states Luke, emphasizing the importance Luke places on seeing Yarway Group make a positive impact for all its clients.
Luke has learned through his faith that there is no one blueprint for good leadership. He believes that being authentic and true to oneself is essential. He has made mistakes in the past. However, he has learned to put his trust in Jesus and seek his wise counsel for key decisions in the business. During tough times, he turns to prayer and seeks guidance to navigate the unique challenges in his industry.
Luke asserts that his faith and trust in Jesus helped him make important decisions and pivot to build an agile business model, which is unique in the Post-16 education sector. As a Kingdom business leader, Luke believes in leading with love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, as prescribed in Galatians 5:22-23.
Outside of work, Luke leads an active lifestyle and has a diverse range of hobbies that keep him engaged. He enjoys walking in the countryside, hitting the gym, playing semi-professional football, reading books, catching shows in the West End theatre district, and traveling to explore new cultures and destinations.
Key Advice to Budding Leaders
Luke believes that leadership is a highly individual journey and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. He acknowledges that there are many self-help and leadership books out there that can provide practical techniques to improve one’s leadership skills. However, he firmly believes that the most valuable piece of advice for budding leaders is to understand and be their true authentic selves, both as individuals and as leaders.
“I believe reading can be a great opportunity to help you learn more about yourself, whilst adopting practical techniques to improve your leadership charter,” Luke concludes.
Also Read: The 10 Influential Education Leaders, 2023