Colleges ignore benefits of diverse workforce

Many managers in organisations that provide further education, adult education or training are indifferent or even resistant to involvement with diversity issues, according to a report.

The report, Leadership, Development and Diversity in the Learning and Skills Sector, highlights the lack of a common understanding of the term ‘diversity’ in educational organisations and calls for swift action to address concerns about the low priority given to diversity issues.

The research questioned staff in 10 organisations and was carried out by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA), the government body set up to improve the quality of post-16 education and training.

It found a wide gulf between staff who were firmly committed to diversity and those who were not. Some saw achieving greater diversity among staff and students as an important objective, whereas others felt it was “irrelevant” and “an impractical target”.

Student mix

Those organisations that felt their student population was representative of the local community, tended to use this to justify no further action.

“It’s not really an issue here as there is a low percentage of minorities within both the town and the college,’ said one respondent.

Part-time and non-teaching staff were significantly more likely than full-timers to be positive about their organisation’s commitment to diversity.

There was no common understanding about the meaning of diversity, although most respondents assumed it was about race and gender and did not include age and disability, the report found.

A typical view was that diversity was mainly about equal opportunities monitoring and ensuring that the student population was representative of the local community.

Achieving a more diverse workforce was also viewed as less important than addressing diversity issues among the student population.

Andrew Thomson, chief executive of the LSDA, said there was an urgent need to attract more managers from black and minority ethnic groups into senior leadership positions in education and training.

“A diverse staff, for instance, is in a stronger position to meet the need of diverse students, offer a richer and more effective leadership, and provide leadership and role models for learners,” he said.

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