Never too old to learn

For more than 20 years HTI (Heads, Teachers and Industry) has been arranging secondments into industry for school leaders. A not-for-profit charity, HTI is dedicated to enhancing leadership and management within schools and these secondments were designed to help education professionals widen their management skills and experience and bring new practices back into their workplace. This year, HTI has reversed the process. Establishing a number of pilot schemes under the title of Take5, managers from industry have gone back to school for five days to address their own professional development needs.

“We have about 20,000 managers in Lloyds TSB Group and we’re always looking for different kinds of development initiatives for them,” says Martyn Levett, head of HR at the University of Lloyds TSB. “The attraction for us was to provide people with exposure to a different working environment and to test their skills in that environment.”

Daniel Cook has been seconded to Oaklands School in Cheshire. Responsible for the internal marketing of Lloyds TSB’s corporate university, he has been providing assistance in reviewing the brand of the school, from creating a new prospectus that appeals to parents and students, to modernising the website and uniform.

“There are similarities between promoting a school and marketing training products as I do within Lloyds TSB,” says Cook. “The secondment means I can take a step back and address different issues. It will broaden my skills and the range of marketing I can do in my job.”

Change management firm Expeditus Consulting is also involved. Managing director Manny Coulon, says: “The reason I got involved was because our company likes to give back to the community in which we work. Who in their right mind who’s had some success doesn’t want to give back to the education sector?”

Coulon has been working with Bishop Walston, a secondary school in Rugby which has recently been awarded Business Enterprise status. According to the Depart-ment for Education and Skills, Business Enterprise colleges use their specialist status to provide opportunities for pupils to follow a wide range of ‘work-related learning pathways’.

Coulon was matched with the school by HTI, which assessed the skills required, time commitment and geography issues, to provide advice on attaining this specialist school status and recruiting a business development manager.

“The head teacher said the school was comfortable recruiting teaching staff for any subject,” says Coulon, “But [the school] does not understand business language. Candidates could be using the right words or meaningless jargon. They needed someone with that kind of knowledge to help set up the process and make sure they were going in the right direction.”

The school benefits from services it would be unlikely to afford if it engaged external consultants by the usual route. But Manny also feels the benefit: “My business is all about applying the right tools and frameworks at the right time,” he says, “I learn things every day which I realise I can use if similar situations occur for my business clients.”

While Take5 is intended to require only five days of a business manager’s time, the structure allows for complete flexibility. This is not a question of devoting five consecutive days, or even one day a week. Secondee and organisation can adapt the arrangements according to the nature of the project and their own commitments. According to Coulon, the relationship is likely to extend into the future.

“With this project I realised from the first meeting that it could take a longer period of my time, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it, the school has benefited and it follows the values of the companies I run,” Coulon says.

And Levett agrees. “It certainly fills a gap,” he says. “It’s a short, sharp exposure and you can build on that – it’s not something you just do and leave.

“One of the biggest challenges we have is how to develop the generic capabilities of our future managers. The beauty of this scheme is that the school benefits from our technical expertise while our organisation benefits from increased general management skills. It takes our managers out of their usual comfort zone.”

Don’t miss Personnel Today’s learning and development special report on the 26 April

Benefits of going back to school

– More than a job swap, Take5 is co-ordinated and focused to meet specific aims and objectives for the school concerned. There are corresponding measurable outcomes for the secondee and their organisation

– Enhancing the profile of business in education can help generate interest in your company from students. Such activity may help prime the pump for recruitment

– Getting involved with not-for-profit education sector scores well for corporate social responsibility

– The education environment enables secondees to concentrate on general and practical skills – communication, negotiation and people management, rather than technical skills

– Financing the secondment is a tax deductible expense.

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