According to Children and Young People Now a major programme to invest in leadership and management skills for the youth workforce will start this month.
More than 5,000 front-line managers and nearly 500 service leaders will benefit from the training programme, which was first pledged in the government’s 10-year youth strategy Aiming High for Young People.
The Children’s Workforce Development Council announced this week that The National Youth Agency, Catch 22, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ Virtual Staff College and regional youth work units are among providers to deliver the training. They are part of a consortium led by FPM Training.
Doug Nicholls, Unite’s national secretary of the Community and Youth Workers Industrial Sector, which is also supporting the initiative, said: “The prospect of ensuring youth leaders think about management strategies is a good one.”
Kevin Ford, chief executive of FPM Training, said: “This is a once in a generation opportunity for leaders and managers across the whole of the youth workforce, in partnerships between the statutory and third sectors, to make integrated youth support services a reality.”
This is the sort of initiative that brooks neither criticism nor interest. Yet my feeling is that the response within the field will be ambivalent. Of course there will be the ‘career managers’, for whom management is an end in itself. But there will be those too, who can’t bear the the thought of sitting in circles pursuing the the same old leadership exercises, dressed up in new clothing. The notion that youth work practitioners lack management theory and skills is old hat. We’ve been attending to these supposed deficiencies in Youth Work for many a good day. And the purveyors of management training, those consultants we bought in, have a pretty dodgy track record in terms of influencing for the better services to young people. Yet, for some reason, we don’t seem to ponder whether this might be down to the fact that a great deal of management theory itself is pretentious bull-shit. Or perhaps this is to put it the wrong way. We do know it’s often vacuous and irrelevant, but know we won’t be thanked for saying so. Indeed we are likely to be jumped upon, particularly by those diploma-laden managers, who with a straight face talk about ‘out-of-the box thinking’ and ‘win-win situations’ , and who usually have the most negative relationships with their staff.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter as it will be good to get so many people together and they will learn from each other. On the other hand, as the outcomes business-led philosophy of the last 20 years and more is in crisis, isn’t this a great opportunity to think otherwise – to revive a debate about workers’ and young people’s management and control? Indeed, never mind, my thoughts on democratic management, it’s tempting to wonder if any of today’s trainers and consultants with their ‘new’ emphasis on ‘integration’ are familiar with the work of Mary Parker Follett, who in the 1920s criticised ‘departmentalized’ thinking, advocated change-oriented and informal structures, and espoused the ‘integrative’ organization.
As for Doug Nicholl’s response I can only take this to mean that a workforce more informed about management strategies will be better able to resist and subvert the hierarchy’s intentions. In passing I am intrigued to know when the CYWU became the CYW Industrial Sector – a change of name that throws up some interesting issues, to which we might return.
As for FPM Training, you can but wonder at the credentials of an outfit, who embrace without a flicker of doubt the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment as a way of improving ‘relationships, productivity and efficiency in the work environment’? This inventory based on Jung’s speculative theory of personality proposes that there are 16 personality types. It is seductive when folk like easy answers to the complexity of why we are who we are. It fits the tick box mentality of the day, but it’s generalised, unsound and pernicious.