Provider: Hugh Baird College

Location: Bootle, Merseyside

Position: Director of Governance

Favourite pastime: avid reader and an active member of a local book group

What is your role with the governing body?

As the college’s Director of Governance, my job is to ensure that board members are fully aware of their roles and responsibilities and are kept up to date with changes to legislation. I also act as clerk and provide induction and ongoing training for our governors.

How do individuals benefit from being a board member?

Whether someone is a high level director or they’ve come onto the board with a specific skillset, being a governor offers them the opportunity to contribute to the area’s strategic priorities, particularly developing a skills base for the future. By participating in strategic decision making, governors enhance their knowledge and awareness of key issues affecting the local area.

We have received positive feedback from governors about how they have applied the training and development offered at the college in their professional lives. Colleges offer a wide range of training and development in key areas including: data analysis, quality assurance, business planning, equal opportunities, health and safety legislation, audit, finance, and how effective boards operate.

What qualities do you look for in an effective board member?

A willingness to learn needs to be at the top. This means familiarising themselves with the organisation and how it works, but also gaining a good understanding of the needs of the local area.

Being ready to make a contribution to the board is important. We look for individuals who can apply their skills, whatever they are, in the board meeting to the benefit of all. I encourage governors to think about how they are having an impact and what additional training they need in order to make a full contribution to decision making.

Finally, there is a time commitment that governors need to be prepared to make. We expect regular attendance at meetings and participation in college celebrations and events.

In an effective committee chair?

It’s important to be an inclusive leader and an active listener. The chair needs to ensure that the views of all governors are sought at meetings and that members work effectively as a team.

The role of ambassador is a strong one for a chair as well. All governors need to understand that they are serving the community and they are accountable to stakeholders, including students, staff, employers and the wider community.

Why should people apply to serve on FE boards?

It is a role that allows people with variety of skills and expertise to enhance their knowledge of and promote learning for their community. For all colleges, the community is at the heart of what they do.

To be a part of helping to develop sustainable employment that meets employers’ needs in the local areas is a unique and satisfying experience.

What advice would you give to new volunteers about getting the most out of their experience?

Establish a relationship with the clerk and the chair from the start. Dedicate some time to get to know the college. We offer new governors the opportunity to meet one-to-one with each senior manager so they have an awareness of all aspects of the college. It helps them to come well informed to the first meeting.

Do ask questions; there’s nothing worse than a silent meeting. If you haven’t understood something, 9 out of 10 times you’re not the only one.  The clerk is there to help, don’t be afraid to ask when you need it.

Above all, remember that this is about working together for the greater good of the community. The sum of the whole is always worth more than the individual parts.