Quit the sector if you suffer funding cut fatigue, says Lord

28th May 2010 at 01:00
Former equality commission head wants employees to have the confidence to consider other options

Further education employees should consider leaving the sector rather than endure the demoralising effects of funding cuts, the former head of the Commission for Racial Equality was expected to tell a conference this week.

Speaking to FE Focus ahead of the Network for Black Professionals' conference, Herman Ouseley said that while the advice applied to all staff, history showed that people from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds are disproportionately affected in terms of job losses during times of economic downturn.

Lord Ouseley, who was due to deliver the keynote speech to Wednesday's "Impact through diversity" conference in London, urged employers to look beyond "soft option" redundancies and to the talents, experience and skills of all staff, particularly those who might be overlooked such as BME and female employees.

But he said that staff should have the confidence to consider other options since a demoralised FE workforce would not serve students, employees or employers well.

"There are challenges and difficulties ahead and this must not mean that people are allowed to become demoralised," Lord Ouseley said. "People must look beyond the sector, even if it is temporarily, rather than allow themselves to become demoralised. It is about people beginning to believe in themselves and widening their range of skills and experience. People should not get stuck in a quagmire."

BME staff continue to be under represented at senior management levels in FE and Lord Ouseley said he feared that redundancies could make the situation worse.

"Employers can look for the soft options when it comes to cuts," he said. "And if you look at downturns over the past 40 years, they have always had a disproportionate impact on BME employees. I don't think this time will be any different.

"Historically, there is a feeling that the best talents are more likely to be white than black. Employers also tend to look to people they have relied on over a long period of time who will tend to be white. These contribute, consequently, to the way decisions are made."

He called on employers and staff to be more dynamic when considering skills and experience.

"How colleges work with employers is important to retaining staff," he said. "It is also important for colleges to take into account the whole range of activities that individuals are involved with, looking at a wider range of skills beyond standard qualifications and experience.

"For instance, what do people do in their local communities, for instance helping with poorer communities? Those other factors are an important part of the FE sector's work."

The conference, run jointly with the Women's Leadership Network, was also due to hear from Robin Landman, chief executive of the Network for Black Professionals.

Mr Landman told FE Focus: "This conference is timely in demonstrating that, through a collaborative approach, we can ensure that diversity is not a luxury at a time of plenty, but can be sustained and further developed during periods of stringency."

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