Over the last three years, Gateshead College has adopted a fresh approach to its people development and has been nationally recognised for its people-led culture, consecutively picking up two Investors in People Gold awards and maintaining an accreditation that just 13 per cent of Investors in People businesses have achieved so far.
Working in partnership with industry experts, as much importance is placed on providing training and career development opportunities for its own staff as it is for the thousands of students and apprentices who attend each year.
Hands-on learning is provided across all curriculum areas. For example, as part of the delivery of a bespoke warehouse apprenticeship programme for Vantec, all course tutors take part in work placements at the Washington-based logistics specialist.
Designed to provide knowledge of specific working practices within the business, it helps tutors to give apprentices a more accurate insight into the processes and challenges that are part of daily operations at Vantec.
Mark Thompson, director of people and organisational development at Gateshead College, says: “We recognise that to make sure students leave us well prepared to join the jobs market, the people teaching them need to know exactly what employers are looking for.
“Providing work-based training allows our staff to continuously develop their awareness of industry needs while also keeping them ahead of the game in terms of recognising industry trends. It means our students and apprentices are equipped with the latest skills and experience so they can hit the ground running from their first day at work.”
A cultural shift towards realising potential across the organisation is a result of having a people-first approach and a dedicated people committee at board level that oversees all staff development activity. Combined with a significant increase on investment in learning and development activities for staff, this has achieved a rise in internal promotions from 37 per cent in 2014-15 to 45 per cent in 2015-16.
Aspiring managers are helped to realise their career ambitions through a coaching and management programme, which also enhances the skills of those already in senior management posts. Those in top tier positions complete a level five qualification in coaching and then take part in a mentoring scheme to support budding managers. This inclusive approach promotes peer-to-peer learning and ensures that staff across the business are involved with training and people development.
Equally as important as developing teaching and role-specific expertise, Gateshead College pushes the health and wellbeing agenda through a Fit for Life initiative. All staff have access to health screenings, smoking cessation plans and mindfulness classes while being encouraged to take part in events for campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week. These initiatives have played a key role in reducing staff absences from 2.9 per cent in 2014-15 to 1.5 per cent in 2015-16.
Mark adds: “We’ve worked very hard over the last three years to bring about positive changes to create a working environment with plenty of opportunities for personal development and professional growth. And while the results speak for themselves in terms of recognition as both a top employer and one of the UK’s leading FE providers, the challenge now is to improve on what we’ve achieved so far and retain our position at the forefront of people development practice.”