Skip to content

College Invests in Staff to Develop the Next Generation of Leaders

Digital Union member Sunderland College has launched an innovative programme to develop the next generation of leaders who will shape the future of the organisation.


Sunderland College has launched an innovative programme to develop the next generation of leaders who will shape the future of the organisation.

Aspire is a two-year programme for staff at all levels of the organisation, which will encourage, nurture and mentor the College’s leaders of the future.

The aspiring leaders will receive dedicated support from the College’s senior leadership team, governors, external stakeholders and expert trainers. They will gain the skills and knowledge to become successful and inspiring leaders within a rapidly changing and increasingly complex further education environment.

Ellen Thinnesen, Principal and Chief Executive of Sunderland College, said:

“In recent years, the College has invested in leadership development at all levels. We strongly believe in empowering our staff to succeed. It is vital to our long-term success and will help to transform the College.

“We aspire to be the best in all that we do and to enable our staff to nurture their talents, reach their full potential and achieve their career goals.”

The leadership programme is as a result of the College’s new Strategic Plan, which was launched in November. It recognised that investment in staff is the key to success. Sunderland College’s Director of People and Development, Naomi Robson, said:

“This exciting new programme will develop people’s capabilities to be exceptional leaders of the future. We value and care about our staff and recognise the importance of leadership at all levels in achieving our strategic priorities. Aspire is one route of many that will support us in identifying and investing in our leaders of the future.”

20 members of staff have already started on their leadership journey, with an induction session last week. Sheree Rymer, Curriculum Manager for Creative Arts, who is among the first cohort, said:

“The Aspire programme is an excellent opportunity to develop myself, my team and our students to become high performing. It’s great that the College is committed to cultivating talent from within the organisation and demonstrates to those outside of the organisation that this is a fantastic place to work.”

Sheree, who originally started working at the College in 2001 as a temporary member of staff, said:

“The first Aspire session was creative, engaging and exciting. I’m looking forward to gaining new knowledge, and the confidence in knowing I can lead and make a change to students and my team.”

Aspire consists of seven modules studied in year one, which are delivered by a range of internal and external speakers including well-known leadership expert Larry Shulman. The eighth and final module is studied in the second year of the programme and includes an intensive leadership in action project. On completion of the programme, staff can gain an ILM Level 5 Diploma.

STEM Curriculum Manager, Mark Batey, who has worked at Sunderland College’s Hartlepool Sixth Form campus for six years, said:

“I wanted to develop my management skills through the Aspire programme, and also to develop my understanding of the wider issues that affect the College, such as the impact of political changes. The programme has a lot of very different modules so I will gain a huge amount of knowledge from these. It will take me out of my daily schedule and give me the time think clearly and focus on each module.

“The College’s investment in this programme shows that it is serious about developing the management skills of employees from all different parts of the college and the fact that the sessions are being led or delivered by the senior leadership team reinforces this.”

For more information about the College visit or contact 0191 511 6000 /

Delivered with