From education to employment

Reporter Annabel Hardy

We had a brilliant meeting with UNISON five months ago and they impressed us with their passion and pizzazz. I was able to go to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and earmark some money to work with UNISON, who were very supportive. UNISON have developed the content of the program and will deliver the programmes.

What we did was agree the scope of the project around Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for support staff. UNISON then worked within the brief to develop the suite of programmes spanning education providers across the FE system. They provide a unique offer which enables us to engage with support staff in colleges, to prepare them for leadership and management roles within the sector.

There is an entire suite of training programmes covering a range of activities, enabling us to promote the equality and diversity agenda. One of the programmes focuses on staff for whom English is not their first language, in order to develop English skills in the workplace. Another is within colleges and providers, many of whom operate development review schemes. We run workshops on how to train staff to get the best use out of those meetings with their line managers, so that they can best elicit support in terms of their own training and development. It is a capacity and confidence building exercise.

Another program is around helping people to develop their writing, problem solving, project development and management skills and the use of ICT – Information, Communication and Technology. Another program helps people improve their thinking of a leadership career in the future with their organisation. It helps people develop their capacity to study and improve management skills, to a diploma, degree or graduate level, and build the confidence to embark on a study program. We proactively want to engage under-represented staff at all levels.

It was a really exciting project for us to work with UNISON. We will be looking to see what feedback we get in terms of the impact this has had. It is difficult to tell how many colleges will take part at the moment as we are in the early stages. I think [this project] gives a strong message to the staff in our sector, the FE system, that there is something for them in terms of leadership. CEL was established in October 2003 by the DfES and we have a specific remit for learning and skills staff.

One of the key things is to improve the diversity profile of employees who work in the sector to get a greater representation of staff in relation to students. We have a diverse student representation in relation to their culture and faith and we want to make sure that the support staff understand the culture and faiths of students and act as role models.

Ivor Jones, Deputy Chief Executive, Centre for Excellence in Leadership.

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