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The will to learn is overwhelming;FE Focus

A training programme aims to prepare college managers before they apply for the top jobs, Neil Merrick reports

More than 100 middle managers at Huddersfield Technical College were recently asked whether they thought they needed more training. The response was an overwhelming "yes".

And given opportunities for self-improvement, nearly half of the enormous college's 102 management team chose one of the two training programmes run by the Further Education Development Agency. Most of the rest opted for internal college training.

The motivation for the college's initiative to open up training came after its decision to become a recognised Investor in People - the Government-backed initiative to promote enterprise, management skills and individual initiative in the workplace.

The college gained IIP status last June, said assistant principal Melanie Brooke. "People told us how nobody had ever shown any interest in management skills before," she said. "The very fact somebody asked them about training made quite an impact."

The two staff development agency courses offered "customised training" specific to the needs of the college, she said. But they also gave something unique to individual staff since the courses lead to either a postgraduate certificate in management or a national vocational qualification.

Managers should achieve a recognised qualification which will help them to gain a better management post at Huddersfield or any other college. Twenty-nine staff are now doing either the postgraduate certificate or NVQ programmes this year. A further 20 expect to enrol next year.

The training is open to both lecturers and non-academic staff - although they all must be prepared to balance the work involved with day-to-day teaching and other workloads.

"We stressed the level of commitment involved," said staff development manager Paul Anderton. "I was very pleased by the positive response and the number which wanted to go down the formal route with FEDA" Patricia Foster, a section leader for computing in business services and the college's GNVQ co-ordinator, spent 20 days researching and writing her first assignment on developing as a team leader. Candidates taking the postgraduate certificate must complete six modules over 12 months.

Topics range from managing curriculum change, to human resource management and financial matters.

Patricia Foster, had been a section leader for four years. But she still found the training offered opportunities and insights into areas where she lacked skills, such as handling conflict, an area too many managers admit they shy away from.

She has no ambitions to become a principal but would like steadily to reduce her teaching timetable and move into wider management across the college.

Marketing manager Mark Bentley, opted to go down the NVQ route. There seemed to be a tradition in FE that people were promoted to their "level of incompetence", he said. The same was true outside education. "You become a section leader because you are a great teacher but not enough people are trained for a management role."

Principal technician David Hardcastle, who manages a team of 28, had been on many short courses before but this was an opportunity to gain a qualification. "The certificate was the main driving force for me but since embarking on the training I can see that there are a number of benefits for me while I am here at the college".

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