Justin King strikes Gold thanks to the Sixth Form College, Solihull Former college student awarded an Association of Colleges Gold Award

The Sixth Form College, Solihull was celebrating today as Justin King, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s and one of its former students, was awarded a prestigious Association of Colleges (AoC) Gold Award by Lord Willis of Knaresborough at the House of Commons.

Staff and students from the Sixth Form College, Solihull were present at the awards ceremony which is held each year to recognise further education alumni as well as acknowledge the vital role that colleges play in the careers of the winners and of their continuing achievements.

Justin King was nominated by the College where he studied his A Levels in 1979. Armed with his grades from the College, Justin undertook a degree in Business Administration at the University of Bath. After graduating in 1983, he worked for a number of prominent food manufacturers such as Mars Confectionery, Pepsi International and Haägen Dazs before becoming Director of ASDA in 1994. In 2001, King moved to Marks & Spencer where he managed the food division.

Justin joined Sainsbury’s in 2004, charged with improving sales and halting its declining market share . Within six months, King had launched his recovery programme under the banner, “Making Sainsbury’s Great Again” and has recently been able to announce that the company has achieved 30 consecutive quarters of sales growth.

In January 2009 Justin was appointed to the Board of the London Organising Committee for the Olympics by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. He was then made a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group and awarded a CBE in the Birthday Honours in 2011.

On receiving his award, Justin said, “I am very honoured to be presented with this award. My time at Solihull Sixth Form College was key to my decision to go to University and study business, and as such, pivotal in my career. I am delighted to say that more recently my daughter has successfully attended the college too.”

Justin King was among eight former students whose careers have been positively influenced by their former Colleges. The other winners are Trevor Baylis – Inventor and Entrepreneur, Idris Elba – Actor, Katy Etherington – Graphic Designer and Founder of PA Pool, Peter France – Chief Executive of Rotork plc, Justine Greening MP – Secretary of State for Transport, Amir Khan – Professional Boxer, and Sir Kevin Smith – Chief Executive of GKN plc.

To highlight the important role further education continues to play for today’s students the AoC Charitable Trust runs a ‘mini me’ campaign alongside the Gold Awards. The nominating colleges each select a current student who shows promise in a similar field to their Gold Award winner.

Toby Railton, from Solihull, is currently studying A Levels in Economics, Politics, Mathematics and Further Maths. He has secured a prestigious 6-year apprenticeship with accountancy firm KPMG, which will see him complete a 4-year Accountancy degree at the University of Birmingham and start work at the firm.

Toby, 18, had the opportunity to meet his muse at the award ceremony at the House of Commons on 13 June and find out what it takes to carve out a successful career and about the role that their college played in their success.

Toby commented, “It’s great to hear about Justin King’s success and good to know that he started where I am now. It shows what you can achieve if you are willing to work hard. I hope my apprenticeship at KPMG is the start of a successful career for me in business.”

Paul Ashdown, Principal of The Sixth Form College Solihull, added, “We are delighted to see Justin King being recognised for his achievements by the AoC. We believe that Justin is an outstanding role model for our current and future students, because he demonstrates what can be achieved with hard work and dedication. We hope that many more of our students go on to achieve similar success in their chosen fields.”