From education to employment

LSC London Central Scheme Tackles Problem of Diversity, but is it One Step on a Long Road?<

The issue of inclusion in FE is something that FE News has been eager to address. Much good work has been done, and is done, across the sector to meet the challenges that this brings.

One such example is the scheme that has been set up by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) London Central, in partnership with the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners (EFBWBO)and Cranfield School of Management to help to train more women from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds for working on public service boards. It is hoped that the scheme will address the needs of the women looking to work in this voluntary area, and also the needs of the sector for diversity in participation.

The True Scope

The problem, however, is still a large one. In the Further Education sector, as in all public sectors, there is hardly a paucity of public boards and bodies. The statistics show that there are approximately 834 national public bodies in the UK offering in excess of 22,000 public appointments; but from this, women hold just 34% of positions. Furthermore, less than 2% are held by women from minority ethnic communities.

Yvonne Thompson, Chair of LSC London Central and President of EFBWBO, was one of the driving forces behind the programme. She commented on the need for a more truly reflective and representative staff demographic in the sector, saying: “The more public bodies truly reflect the demographics of our diverse society, the better their decision-making about services and how they impact on individuals and communities will be.”

The Programme

Within the programme itself, a wide variety of training opportunities are offered. Each programme participant will receive a tailored training needs analysis and development plan; sessions with a personal coach; participation in formal workshops; and at least one day as an observer at a board meeting. There will also be a final day for the group to meet, review what they have learned and their personal progress.

The response from industry has been impressive. Public Sector organisations have taken the opportunity to offer expertise and benefit from the scheme. These include HM Revenue & Customs, prison and fire services, Health Trusts, London Colleges, Local Authorities as well as the LSC. Indeed, the Cabinet Office are also committed to increasing diversity ““ following their recent ten point plan for furthering diversity in the Civil Service ““ and remain interested in involvement in the scheme.

Yvonne Thompson said of the programme: “I believe that a board that encompasses a diverse range of skills and experience will make it a more effective body. I am delighted to have been able to initiate this programme and that the LSC have fully supported and funded it.” It is hoped that the scheme will help to promote the issue of diversity in public service boards; it seems plain that such a push is necessary.

Jethro Marsh

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