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The Corporation

Posted: 19/07/10

Going for gold! College's double award success

A college is celebrating after becoming the first organisation in the East Midlands – and one of the first in the country – to gain two prestigious employer accolades.

West Nottinghamshire College has gained the highly sought-after Investors in People (IiP) Gold standard and its associated Health and Wellbeing Good Practice Award – both at the first attempt.

It is the region’s only employer to boast the new health and wellbeing award, launched earlier this year by IiP to recognise organisations that have strengthened their business by looking after their staff.

The Mansfield college, which has held the IiP standard since 1996, applied for a higher-level accreditation at its latest re-assessment in response to progress made since its last assessment three years ago.  Last year IiP introduced bronze, silver and gold recognition for high achievers that want to work beyond standard accreditation.

Almost 100 staff were interviewed by an assessor over a three-week period in May and June, and asked for their views on how the college supports them in the workplace.  A range of college plans, strategies and policy documents were also inspected.

The official assessment report confirming its gold status – the highest level of accreditation in the IiP scheme – states: “People love working at West Notts College and feel extremely well cared for and supported. Staff genuinely feel that they make a great contribution to the college’s success and are very proud to work at the college.”

Areas of strength highlighted in the report include:

  • A culture of continuous improvement and learning across the college;
  • Staff, students and stakeholders feeling involved in decision-making;
  • Highly-motivated staff, who have access to a range of developmental opportunities;
  • Strong communication and consultation processes;
  • Well-embedded mechanisms for sharing best practice;
  • A commitment towards social responsibility and tackling sustainability issues.

The regular ‘breakfast with the principal’ meetings, which sees college principal and chief executive Asha Khemka OBE meeting with staff to get their views about working at the college, came in for particular praise; as did the Saturday morning training events for part-time ‘sessional’ tutors and online portal that gives them access to teaching resources from home.

Meanwhile, the health and wellbeing assessment report said the college, which employs 1,100 staff at ten sites across Mansfield and Ashfield, had implemented a range of measures to ensure they felt happy and motivated and could do their jobs effectively.

Employees were supported to make healthy lifestyle choices and enjoy a work-life balance – with access to counselling, health checks, childcare facilities and discounts at the college’s hair and beauty training salon in Mansfield town centre just some of the initiatives highlighted.

The report stated: “Staff and managers are well engaged with health and wellbeing in its variety of implementations, whether this be the family-friendly working arrangements, dealing with work pressures, health and safety focus, or keeping healthy.”

It said the college’s senior team placed “much emphasis” on personal interaction with staff and students, adding: “this is clearly led from the top by the principal; during the review visit she was frequently praised for her attention to staff and students.”

Asha Khemka OBE said: “Securing the Investors in People gold standard and Health and Wellbeing Award has made me so proud.  We value every single one of our employees and are committed to creating an environment in which they really thrive and shape the way we do business.

“Our staff are our number one asset and it’s down to their energy and commitment that the college continues to provide outstanding educational and training opportunities to students and employers.”

Both the college and Mrs Khemka are no strangers to receiving top employer accolades. 

In March it was placed 14th in The Sunday Times 75 Best Places to Work in the Public Sector 2010 listing – the highest-placed organisation in the East Midlands. Just weeks earlier the college retained its Best Companies status for organisations that show high levels of staff engagement – the only further education college in the region to hold the accolade.

And last month its administration apprenticeship scheme was shortlisted in the Training Journal Awards 2010, with the results due to be announced in September.

Mrs Khemka is the current Midlands Businesswoman of the Year, after being crowned winner of the prestigious honour at the annual Vitalise Women of the Year Luncheon and Awards in Birmingham last October.