SORTED Guide to Sustainability in Further Education – Part 6 - Partnerships and engagement – 6.1 Partnerships & Engagement: external stakeholder engagement and interface - Part 1
Introduction to the topic area
As an FE provider, you are a member of a community made up of a wide variety of stakeholders including:
- Local residents and residents associations
- Governors or board members
- Learners and parents
- Local authorities
- Religious groups
- Health providers
- Voluntary and not-for-profit organisations
- Local businesses
- Disadvantaged individuals
- Local universities
- Public organisations
- Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs)
- Other learning providers
- Housing providers
- Trade Unions
Involving local communities in how your organisation is run means that you can meet the needs of the communities in which you are located. In working with local and regional partners, you can also ensure that the services, education and training you offer are fit for purpose.
Within your local community, you have the potential to be much more than a provider of education and training, for example:
- The significant buying power of FE organisations means that they can make purchasing decisions to the benefit of local companies and local economies. They can also ensure that what they buy is ethically sound, through considering the social and welfare impacts of certain products and services at the local level
- The staff and learners of FE organisations can have positive impacts through being encouraged to take part in volunteering activities to benefit local communities
- The expertise of staff within FE organisations can be used to the benefit of local businesses and both can work together to develop mutually agreeable curriculum
- Effective communications with local businesses can ensure that partnership working can take place when new training needs arise for the local workforce
- Facilities can be shared – College facilities are often underutilised in the evenings, making them a useful community resource.
Organisational value of embedding sustainability in this area
- Good relationships with local employers – enabling your organisation to respond effectively to local business requirements, and ensuring learners are attractive to the needs of local companies. This will help boost local employment levels. Educating local learners and helping them into local employment will be beneficial to the local economy, and may in turn lead to higher admission rates in the future. Good relationships will also facilitate apprenticeship opportunities for learners.
- Good relationships with local enterprise partnerships will ensure that your organisation is able to respond to the area’s changing employment and skills needs.
- Good community relations – the image of a provider within its local neighbourhood and community will be enhanced where it is actively contributing to the wellbeing of its local area. Maintaining grounds and buildings and managing security well will cement good relations with local neighbours and ensure that it is in keeping with local neighbourhoods. Encouraging staff and learners to engage in community volunteering activities and projects will also benefit local people and enhance the profile of the provider. Shared facilities, for example for business seminars and presentations, catering, arts and cultural events and for recreation will also help strengthen community cohesion and place a provider at the heart of a local community.
- Improved reputation. A more proactive approach to sustainable development at local and community level by a provider can improve its overall reputation at the local level. Clearly, as young people are becoming more aware of their social, environmental and economic impacts, this may also have a bearing upon admission rates.
- Providing local jobs for staff as well as education, training and in turn, employment for learners will directly reduce the need to travel which will have a positive impact on the environment. Greening buildings can also set a good example in local communities and be used as exemplars of good practice for businesses, individuals and schools to visit.
- A strong and proactive leadership in sustainable development may contribute to improved staff morale and wellbeing, as well as staff retention rates.
- Aligning with new learner values - The Future Leaders Survey showed that knowledge and skills to tackle sustainable development issues is an important factor for many young people considering a choice of college.
- Wider engagement gives greater opportunities to promote the curriculum opportunities – for individual learners as well as for employer-specific training that can be offered.
Wider benefits of embedding sustainability in this area
Involvement with projects in the community will have a far-reaching impact on the local population that your organisation may never know about, for example, presence of security on site may make nearby residents feel more secure in their homes, or planting borders in the local neighbourhood may brighten the day of passers-by. Similarly, a renewable energy business may decide to establish itself in the town, knowing that your institution is a learning hub, and recognising that this will attract interested people, businesses and opportunities into the area (and of course employable learners). These things strengthen a community, and yet you and your colleagues will never know the full impact that these activities will have.