From education to employment

CEL investigates attitudes to risk in FE recruitment

According to research by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL), although colleges appear to be recruiting candidates from a wide range of age groups, some take a more conservative approach. The report, that investigated how further education and sixth-form colleges approached risk-taking in recruitment, found evidence of colleges favouring candidates with lengthy experience but not too close to retirement.

The study commended efforts to appoint individuals from outside the sector, and the consideration given to the importance of entrepreneurship and businesses skills, as well as a track record in FE and knowledge of the curriculum. However, many governing bodies tended to err on the side of caution when selecting new candidates.

The head of career development services at CEL, Ann Ruthven, said: "Colleges face difficult strategic challenges, an unsettled economic climate and testing labour market conditions, all of which add to the mix of obstacles they face when recruiting for senior leadership roles.

"Principals, chief executives, governors and HR professionals have a considerable task ahead to ensure that they have in place the right culture, policies and procedures to ensure that the best possible individuals are recruited into their organisation and into the FE and skills sector."

Colleges using search agencies and a more objective approach to recruitment were shown to achieve a more diverse range of candidates. The research, however, also claimed that where experienced or outgoing principals took part in advising a recruitment panel, interviewees expressed their concerns regarding the dangers of recruiting in the same image.

Ms Ruthven continued: "Many recruitment decisions are fraught with personal opinions, prejudices and potential biases. Our report identifies a number of key priorities for sector leaders, who have a critical role to play in encouraging a broader range of candidates to enter the job market.

"Our recommendations include developing a more integrated approach to achieving talent management and succession planning; facilitating the involvement of others to form a strong and diverse selection board; and developing systematic measurement and monitoring of recruitment processes.

"Risk is a complex issue, but not taking greater risk could be far riskier in the longer term for those involved in recruiting to senior roles in the sector. In the search for talent, and with the need to meet the demands of a rapidly changing environment, ‘What we did before’ may no longer suffice."

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