Leaders and Leading Thinking - Stewart Segal
Stewart Segal, Chief Executive of the Association of Learning Providers provides some thoughts.
It is a good sign that the issues of leadership and management in the Further Education & Skills sector have a much higher profile now than ever before. It’s probably because in these challenging times the sector will need leaders to think about what is required in both the short and long term.
It’s going to be more than just driving efficiency and quality through the system. Leaders in FE & Skills will need to think and act differently. At the same time the sector will need to make sure that there is credible evidence to influence and bring about change. Schools and Universities are better understood and supported by the politicians and the public. We are going to have to articulate what is different about the FE & Skills sector, how we work and how we change practice to show impact on the economy and individuals lives.
Organisations that work in the FE & Skills sector have to be customer focussed. Most of our programmes are work focussed and involve thousands of employers. As a result, the very best organisations are driven by the balance between what the learner needs and what the employer wants. This is not an easy task and sometimes makes the delivery complicated and not easy to understand. Leaders in FE & Skills need to embrace this complexity and make a virtue of it.
Leaders will also have to embrace the fact that most of our programmes are delivered by different organisations working together. Take Apprenticeships for example. It may involve a training provider working with an employer to attract, recruit and induct an apprentice but their delivery programme may involve some training from the employer, the training provider, an on line training specialist and a college partner that delivers some off the job training. The complexity of this delivery model means that focusing on the customer is difficult especially when the funding support is even more complex. What’s required needs to be high quality and effective with leadership constantly focussing teams on what the customer needs.
It also means that leaders have to embrace real partnership working. That is not just subcontracting to specialists but a real commitment to partnership working.
So continuing to focus on the customer during these difficult times will be the biggest challenge for the leaders in FE & Skills. Organisations in our sector have to work together and with employers to deliver high quality programmes so the sector gets the recognition it deserves. I am sure Leaders in our sector working at all levels in the organisation understand this and can deliver.
Given this context, AELP is delighted to be working with FETL. We need space to think through the issues. Our research project seeks to identify the thinking and approaches of new leaders in the FE and Skills sector.
So far, we have conducted over 20 interviews across the sector and three round-table events will be facilitated in September 2015 to give new and established leaders an equal voice providing the space to exchange approaches to leadership. A number of follow-up interviews will be conducted to map how leadership thinking has evolved as a result of the exchanges, culminating in the publication of a report of findings in early 2016.
It’s time for change and to think differently. The key question is – are we are up for the challenge?