Follow the leader

19th August 2005 at 01:00
Ethnic-minority staff shadow LSC chief as part of efforts to create a new cadre of black and Asian principals, reports Joe Clancy.

For a whole week, every time he looked over his shoulder, there she was.

Even as he travelled from one end of the country to another, she was but a step behind.

There was no escape for Mark Haysom, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council, from his indomitable shadow.

At all the top level meetings he attended, she was dogging his every move.

She was there when he met Stephen Marston, the new director general for lifelong learning and skills, in London.

She was with him when he went to Sellafield in Cumbria to visit the UK's first Centre of Vocational Excellence in nuclear engineering and technology, which officially opened in May.

Asha Khemka believes the experience of shadowing the LSC chief will help her to achieve her ambition of becoming a college principal within the next year.

Ms Khemka, deputy principal at New College, Nottingham, spent a week with Mr Haysom as part of a Black Leadership Initiative scheme to encourage the promotion of ethnic-minority managers in further education.

Currently there are only seven black principals in more than 400 colleges in England. She aims to become the eighth.

She said: "What this experience did for me was to increase my insight into the work of the LSC and boost my confidence in what they are trying to do to make a difference in the sector.

"I enjoyed being on his shoulder and I learned a lot from the experience.

My target is to become a principal in the next 12 months and this was a step in the right direction to help me achieve that goal. My governors at New College are very supportive of that."

She said it will be the next challenge in her 17-year career in FE. "I married at 14 in India and had three children by the time I was 19," she said. "When they were all in school, I went to college."

Ms Khemka was the second to shadow Mr Haysom in successive weeks under the BLI initiative. The week before, Sunaina Mann, the newly appointed principal of North East Surrey College of Technology in Epsom, was on his tail. Both were around to witness the final shaping of the LSC's Agenda for Change prospectus, a reform programme that aims to transform FE.

Mr Haysom said: "The shadowing initiative with both Sunaina Mann and Asha Khemka was terrific. Not only was their company stimulating but they also contributed to our work.

"They both had considerable insight into our business and I found it really useful to explain and justify all the things that we are doing, and within this to get a view on how things will be received at the sharp end.

"Whilst they were with us it was 'business as usual' so they really did see, and contribute to, the nitty gritty stuff that goes on here, from meetings with ministers and the department, to council meetings, to the creation of key programmes such as Agenda for Change."

"We are now going to shadow Asha at New College in the autumn. So this works both ways and everyone wins."

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