Meredith White outlines how the Network for Black and Asian Professionals (NBAP) helped her, and just what the FE sector is losing with its closure.

I was introduced to the Network for Black Professionals (NBP) some time ago by my manager who at the time, through NBP, was mentoring staff aspiring to be senior managers.

I was very much impressed with its work. Seeing the efforts of the NBP, I thought, this work should be replicated across all public sector organisations.

Over the years, I have seen many BME [black and minority ethnic] staff benefit greatly from the culture of support and initiative that the NBP alongside the support of FE colleges have provided. For this reason I have continued to keenly encourage colleagues to engage with the NBP.

I was disappointed to learn of the closure of the NBP [this year renamed Network for Black and Asian Professionals] — it has been a voice for BME working in the FE sector for the past 18 years.

The strength of the NBP is its distinctiveness within the educational sector in striving to facilitate the development and progression of BME staff.

Its work supports the benefits and cultural diversity and support succession planning for BME staff has now come to an end.

So what does this mean for the FE sector? Outside of the working environment, it is often difficult to find sources and avenues go gain access to mentoring and guidance from managers and senior managers; or training that comes with little or no financial spend without organisations such as the NBP.

In the current climate of austerity, resources continue to be reduced and priorities shifted, it is unlikely FE organisations will have the time and resources to replicate or sustain the work done by the NBP

Without the NBP being available to turn to, I wonder whether we can expect to see a shift of dependency onto the organisations to further develop and continue initiatives in line with the aspirations of the NBP.

However in the current climate of austerity, resources continue to be reduced and priorities shifted, it is unlikely FE organisations will have the time and resources to replicate or sustain the work done by the NBP.

Positively, FE colleges have actively supported the addressing of issues that surround BME progression within FE, an area that still has much work to be done.

While colleges try to recruit and manage the best talent, it is great to see that colleges such as Westminster Kingsway College continue to maintain dialogue with the recruitment and development of BME staff.

FE serves a diverse set of learners, and as such it is important that this diversity is reflected in its workforce.

Diversity can bring a sense of cohesion to FE colleges, not only is this positive for the sector, but great for our learners whom have and will continue to choose FE to support them through their chosen career paths.

The NBP set itself the task to address the under-representation of BAME managers, senior staffs and principals in the FE sector. Much has come to fruition.

Many FE colleges supported the initiative and we can now talk at length about the increase in BME middle, senior and principle positions.

Further, the value of the long term partnerships formed and self-confidence individuals gained, is invaluable.

It is important that this work is continued within the sector without placing the full burden on organisations. Developing these initiatives requires time, money and expertise. We therefore need to start the conversation, probably even a campaign to continue the focused energies of the NBP.

That the NBP will no longer be part of the FE sector due to being another collateral damage of funding cuts, is highly disappointing and should not be accepted.