Building a More Diverse Civil Service - an article from the Evening Standard.

Tuesday, 01 April 2008

31 March 2008
The Evening Standard
(c) 2008 Associated Newspapers. All rights reserved

A new mentoring scheme aimed at preparing high-calibre black and minority ethnic staff for leadership roles in the Civil Service has been put into action. Launched by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell and Minister for Skills David Lammy MP, the Growing Talent Pilot is a high-level mentoring programme aimed at equipping talented black and minority ethnic staff with the skills and attributes they will need to become future candidates for the Senior Civil Service.

After a rigorous assessment programme, 12 successful applicants to the scheme have been paired with mentors from the Senior Civil Service, all of whom are currently permanent secretaries or work at director-general level. Participants will be given a broader perspective and deeper understanding of the Civil Service so that a pipeline of successful Senior Civil Service candidates can be created. High-level mentoring is the core of the programme but there will also be other events running throughout the next year to reinforce what participants have learned through the mentoring programme.

'In order to meet the challenges of a constantly changing society and an increasing diversity of public service users, the Civil Service needs to ensure it has the right workforce with the right skills,' says O'Donnell. 'This includes having a workforce which reflects the community we serve. The Growing Talent programme is an important step towards achieving a more diverse and professional Civil Service.'

Mr Lammy is similarly delighted to support this project. 'We now have many, many talented and highly qualified young people from BME backgrounds coming through our educational system with a great deal to offer,' he says. 'Now we have to build expectations in our minority communities and among all our citizens that people from a minority background can and should be among the leaders of tomorrow.'

The Growing Talent pilot is one of the first initiatives put into place by the Minority Ethnic Talent Association (META). META was established in 2006 for minority ethnic staff who have participated in a talent programme and have the potential to advance to senior management or leadership level within the Civil Service.

Its founder and chair, Claudette Sutton, has considerable experience of the issues involved in equality of opportunity for minority ethnic staff. She spent three years as team leader of the Ethnic Minority Pupils policy at the DfES, having previously been Senior Lecturer at the Lancashire Business School, where she specialised in developing greater equality of access to university business degrees. Claudette is presently deputy divisional manager at the Schools Improvement and Targets Unit (SITU) and has previously worked at the Cabinet Office on the development of coaching standards.

META's vice-chair is Gloria Wilkinson, a legal adviser in commercial law at the Department for Communities and Local Government. While at the Department of Constitutional Affairs she chaired a group of key stakeholders which made recommendations to the Permanent Secretary on issues concerning equality of opportunity for minority ethnic staff. She also contributed to the setting up of a network for minority ethnic staff as well as organising key inspirational events at the DCA, and the Treasury Solicitor's Office. It is intended that over a four-year period, the Growing Talent pilot and subsequent successor programmes will contribute to the objectives of the Cabinet Office's 10-Point Plan for increasing diversity in the Senior Civil Service.

Delivering a Diverse Civil Service sets out commitments on 10 key areas intended to achieve broad and deep cultural change across the Civil Service. At the heart of the plan is the belief that a more diverse workforce at all levels, including the most senior, will create a Civil Service better equipped to deliver, adapt and innovate for all in society.

There are agreed targets that by April 2008, 37 per cent of the Senior Civil Service will be women, 30 per cent of top management posts will be filled by women, four per cent of the Senior Civil Service will be from minority ethnic backgrounds and 3.2 per cent of the Senior Civil Service will be disabled people - using this visible change to lead broader change. The Service will know in the next few months whether these targets have been achieved.

Gillian Merron MP is the minister with responsibility for the Civil Service. 'The Civil Service needs to be representative of all the talents if it's to be the best that it can be,' she says. 'The Growing Talent programme has an important role to play in building a Civil Service that is truly reflective of our diverse, multicultural society, and I am really pleased to see it up and running with the first 12 successful applicants in place.'

More information about the scheme can be found here.

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