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The importance of training in earnest

The Investors in People logo with its laurel leaves is a useful marketing tool for Farnborough College of Technology in Hampshire. The college has a thriving commercial training unit, and according to principal John Potter it is crucial for other organisations to see that a training provider is to the fore in developing its own staff.

Last April Farnborough became one of the first further education colleges in the country to get the award. A few months later, managers found that after reviewing their practices in preparation for IIP assessment, getting through a Further Education Funding Council inspection was that much easier.

"The IIP standards tie in with FEFC standards in relation to human resources and were part of the evidence we presented to the inspectors," said Martin Horner, head of curriculum research and staff development.

A glowing inspection report describes staff development as one of the strengths of the college. NATFHE branch chairman John Fletcher agrees that the college is willing to give staff opportunities to develop - even when the immediate pay-off for the organisation is limited. But false expectations raised by the Investor in People title meant that his members were not impressed when the college received the award.

"At the time, against a background of industrial unrest over new contracts, staff were bewildered that the college was getting the award so easily, " he said.

This unrest has now died down at Farnborough, which has broken ranks with the Colleges' Employers' Forum to introduce a contract that gives staff 40 rather than 35 days annual leave and puts in place a mechanism to prevent staff from being overloaded, though it does not specify a set number of teaching hours.

Lecturers also now have a period of "self-directed study time" outside the formal teaching year which they can use for curriculum development work or to pursue their own development without having to remain on college premises.

For John Fletcher this part of the contract is an indication that management is prepared to trust staff. The new contract, with its relatively generous holidays and study time, is perhaps also a sign that college is literally prepared to invest in its people.

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