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Summary

This research project forms part of the FETL 2015/16 grants programme and was submitted jointly by AELP, the 157 Group, and Jean Kelly. Following project approval from FETL, work began in March 2015. The fieldwork was completed in March 2016.

To get the right leaders into the sector, the authors argue, we also need to think harder about recruitment. This includes reviewing the information organisations give to candidates to ensure they attract someone with the right‘cultural fit’: ‘Too close and the potential to refresh the organisation may be lost; too far apart may cause too much disruption and a similar outcome.’ It is important too, as the authors also note, that existing staff understand the reasons for non-sector recruitment, as well as for changes to the induction process.There is clearly a danger that resentment could be stored up if staff do not understand the need for new, independent thinking. Senior leaders too will need to work at challenging the tendency to appoint leaders‘in their own image’.

Changing approaches to recruitment and induction should be part of a wider culture shift within the FE and Skills sector. As the authors note, thinking remains ‘generally undervalued’ in FE and Skills. We need a better balance between thinking and doing, particularly if we are to identify and exploit the opportunities the changing climate in FE and Skills brings. Attracting new leadership talent, from both within and outwith the sector, needs to be part of this, and in many cases it already is. The case studies in the paper show the benefit of new blood in getting people to think differently about their work. Thinking that disrupts, that asks awkward questions, that challenges norms and sometime overturns them, shouldn’t frighten us. It should be part of the day-to-day life and culture of every independent training provider and college.

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