Meet the team

Lifetime is made up of over 1,000 people, with teams working closely together to provide an outstanding end-to-end service that unlocks the potential of over 15,000 learners a year.
Our Board of Directors
David Smith - Chief Executive Officer

David Smith is a dynamic and visionary leader who took the reins as CEO of Lifetime in July 2023. With a remarkable track record across multiple blue chip business service sectors, David brings a wealth of expertise and a passion for transforming companies, building long lasting customer relationships, and building colleague engagement all with an eye on sustainability and social value.

Before joining Lifetime, David has held the prestigious position of Chief Executive at 6 previous organisations, where he made a lasting impact in sectors as diverse as Logistics, Facilities Management, Environmental Services, and Retail Banking. David is also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

But David is more than just a seasoned executive; he is a true advocate for the power of vocational training and the incredible potential it holds for individuals and businesses alike. With an unwavering belief in the value of apprenticeships, David champions their ability to unlock untapped talents and create meaningful opportunities.

Michael Thomas - Chairman

Michael Thomas is a Chartered Accountant (FCA) who has significant experience working alongside management teams as a Board member, providing hands-on support and strategic advice to turnaround and grow businesses and deliver stakeholder value through complex transactions in the UK and Europe. 

Michael’s career has mostly been spent working with large multinational businesses working in a number of jurisdictions during his career, including the UK, Austria, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Slovakia, and the United States.

Our Directors
Jason Smerdon - Chief Financial Officer

Jason joins Lifetime from the University of Bristol where he was Group Finance Director for over five years, supporting the growth of the University (and also introducing some apprentices into the Finance Team).

Prior to that, he spent six years at DNV Group as Finance Director, initially as part of the global Senior Leadership team of their sector-leading renewables consultancy Garrad Hassan and, subsequently, heading up finance operations for the Group’s wider business activities across the UK, Ireland & Sub-Saharan African region.

Jason has successfully built and developed teams during his career and he likes to work collaboratively across the wider business to deliver value and growth.

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Carl Cornish - Chief Operating Officer

Carl joined lifetime in 2019 as Chief Operating Officer having previously worked for M&S as Head of Commercial Operations. He brings with him over 20 years’ experience of working in the leisure, hospitality and retail industries, where his vast understanding of operational effectiveness will be hugely beneficial to both Lifetime and client partners.

Having been a customer and advocate of apprenticeships for many years, he is well positioned to oversee and deliver a great client and learner experience.

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Daniel Ball - Quality Director

Daniel has extensive experience in overseeing governance and quality functions within Apprenticeships and FE having worked within the sector for over 10 years. In his remit, Daniel is responsible for driving the quality of education, teaching and learning strategies and quality assurance across the organisation through central quality and curriculum teams.

Daniel holds a BA Hons Degree in Criminology from Leicester University, joining Lifetime in 2010.

Di Gwinnell - People Director

Di joined Lifetime in 2023 as Group HR Director. She was previously Group People & Culture Director for a hyper-growth hospitality company that spanned across the UK and Europe. Di has worked as an HR professional across the public sector, retail & hospitality industries and enjoys working in a purpose-led, people-orientated working environment.

Having started her HR Career on an HR Graduate Scheme with a well-known supermarket chain, she’s personally benefited from learning and development investment over her career. This is why her core personal purpose is around investing in others’ careers, to give something back. She’s a fellow of the CIPD, where she mentors aspiring HR Directors and is committed to supporting our core purpose of helping our learners achieve their career goals & acquire new skills. She’s focussed on ensuring that our own life-changing people are equally invested in and developed during their time with us.

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Mark Denton - IT & Projects Director

Mark joined Lifetime in October 2012 as Head of Project Office responsible for the management, governance and delivery of strategic IT & Business projects. In October 2013 Mark joined the Exec team to lead the IT and Projects teams. Immediately prior to joining Lifetime Mark set up a small local fitness business following 10 years at EE and Orange.

Mark was a Senior Manager for 10 years specialising in the delivery of business technology projects and programmes in telecoms. Mark’s worked for organisations spanning technology, telecoms, ecommerce and online information focussing on delivering business change in line with commercial priorities. Mark has a 2:1 degree in International Relations from Keele University.

Louise Riley - Funding and Compliance Director

Louise joined Lifetime in 2022 having previously worked as Enrolment, Compliance and Claims Director for a fast-growing Independent Training Provider. She has almost 20 years’ experience of leading compliance and operations functions across Apprenticeships, Skills, and Employability sectors to support people to acquire new skills and to enter and progress in employment.

In her remit, Louise is responsible for driving compliance across all funded provision and ensuring Lifetime’s policies, procedures and working practices meet the requirements of funding regulators.

Our team works to become an extension of yours, so we can build long-lasting, trusted partnerships. Read more about our approach.

“Places Leisure have had a long and successful partnership with Lifetime since 2003. I think the key to that success is due to the infrastructure that Lifetime has in place in the form of a team of coaches that cover the length of the country and are able to support our learners on a one-to-one basis.”

Kiira Gamble, Training and Development Manager, Places Leisure)