Money isn't everything, although it certainly helps when it comes to recruiting and keeping staff. But Grimsby College provides a few more perks to show that they are valued. Martin Whittaker reports
Staff retention is always an issue at Grimsby College, especially as local schools and a nearby sixth form college offer higher salaries. So the senior management has been creative in its efforts to keep valued staff. It offers a package of benefits including subsidised health insurance, membership of the college gym and bonuses for excellence. After a successful Ofsted inspection last term, every member of staff was given gift vouchers by way of thanks.
The associate principal, Peter Barnard, says the environment also helps. The college has a bar that wouldn't look out of place in a city centre. It also runs a cinema with free staff membership.
He believes all these measures have had a positive impact. "We are not the private sector, but some of the physical surroundings wouldn't shame a private sector organisation," he says. "We have deliberately planned to make this a smart and excellent place to work. We are trying to come up with a concept of employment in the college that says it isn't just about pay; it's about infrastructure, it's about how we behave towards each other."
Grimsby's approach to human resources is regarded as a model of good practice by the Association of Colleges. The Learning and Skills Council has commissioned projects to help FE colleges, work-based learning providers and adult and community learning providers to identify and share good practice in human resources strategies.
Colleges and providers are not required to produce three-year human resources strategies - and the LSC says it has no plans to introduce such a requirement - but they are expected to set challenging targets for teaching qualifications, and meeting these targets will require a well-developed and organised strategy, says the LSC.
Success For All states that learners must be taught by those with appropriate skills and qualifications. By 2010, all teachers in FE colleges should be qualified to teach - apart from new entrants, who will be expected to achieve appropriate qualifications within two years if they are full-time, or four years if they are part-time.
The aim of the project is to help colleges and providers to develop a three-year approach to the recruitment, retention and development of staff.
The Institute for Employment Studies, which is carrying out the work for the LSC, has also researched good practice in human resources in colleges.
More than three-quarters of FE and tertiary colleges that responded had a specialised department managing human resources. Ten per cent had a dedicated human resources manager, and 13 per cent had a member of staff with additional human resources responsibilities.
Thirty-five per cent considered themselves to have an overarching human resources strategy, while 30 per cent were developing or revising their strategy. Only 1 per cent of respondents said they had no formal human resources policies. Some 62 per cent of FE colleges and 39 per cent of sixth form colleges found that they were performing well in at least one of the these areas: staff development and training, recruitment and retention of staff, equal opportunities and annual performance reviews.
Some 38 per cent of colleges reported that they were running - or had already run - a project that was innovative or an example of good practice.
These included management and staff development schemes, projects linking pay to continuing professional development and achievement.
Of the big human resources issues, staff recruitment and retention, pay and grading, staff performance and development and training topped the list.
The LSC's project will produce three good practice guides - one each for colleges, work-based learning and adult and community learning providers.
The first to feature colleges is expected to be published by the end of March 2004 and will be available from the LSC.