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First Steps is a personal development programme for first-line managers who are in the learning and skills sector, and in the FE system. What we have found is that the level of training and support for new managers is actually quite limited, so there are a lot of very talented managers out there who could do with a bit of help in getting their heads around some generic management theory and practice, but also to give them some skills in what it takes to be a successful manager in our particular sector. We wanted something fairly short ““ it is only a six-day programme, but it is quite intensive.

The reason we offer a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) cohort is that we are looking to the future in terms of getting aspiring young managers to really start to focus on their careers, and where they can go within the sector. There is a lack of representation from BME staff in leadership, so it is just another way of encouraging people to start thinking in terms of a long term career in the sector, and getting them into senior leadership, if that is what they want to do. The content, in terms of addressing why we have a BME cohort, is dealing with discrimination where it happens. Not just about being part of the BME group, but about all kinds of stumbling blocks that people come across in their careers. It is not only “What do I need to do?” but also “How am I going to cope with some of the things that are thrown at me?”

The Commission for Black Staff in Further Education report has very clearly evidenced that BME staff were not getting a good deal in the way they were being managed in the colleges. Obviously, we have the statistical evidence also which says there are only 7 BME principals and around 50 or so senior managers, and that is across 400 colleges ““ it is pretty grim that there are only 50 managers coming from the BME group, in 400 colleges. Given the profile of learners, we should really be doing something about that. That is one of the reasons why we offer the subsidies for the programme.

We have received very good feedback from the BME managers who have taken part. The level of satisfaction was through the roof; it was unbelievable that 98% of the participants were satisfied, or better, with the programme. So that was really good quality feedback ““ it has obviously made a really good impact on their careers.

Because it is such a good formula, and because it is such a short programme, we are opening up First Steps to different cohorts. We”re doing a generic cohort, which anybody can apply for, and we are offering a 100% subsidy for disabled staff, in response to the disability equality duty. We”re also doing in-house cohorts for colleges that have large numbers of staff that want to talk through the programme, so we are using it in lots of different ways now.

It has been a very popular programme.

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Deborah Persaud, Head of Diversity, the Centre for Excellence in Leadership.

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