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College Federation Recruits COO

NWHCThe volatile operating environment and intense rate of change in the Education sector is putting colleges under pressure to transform their approach and differentiate themselves from competitors. North Warwickshire & Hinckley College (NWHC) and South Leicestershire College (SLC) have risen to this challenge by forming a College Federation with a shared vision of being stronger, more efficient and more relevant to their respective communities. The Federation’s ambitions are clear - to drive up quality, reduce costs and develop new revenue streams to create greater social value, whilst preserving independence. The leadership structure comprises a joint Chief Executive, Deputy CEO, Group HR Director and a shared back office. As part of the strategy, the senior management team has been restructured to include a new Chief Operating Officer.

Acting as a member of a small, passionate Executive Leadership Team, the new COO leads the Finance, Estates, MI, IT and HR functions across the Federation’s campuses and schools. Working in partnership with the Chief Executive, College Boards and the Executive Leadership Team, the role is responsible for developing a shared service proposition, whilst also developing the Federation’s strategic thinking to maximise growth and commercial return to assure its long term viability.

Wickland Westcott was chosen to lead the search with a brief to find a talented, commercially-oriented candidate with broad shared services experience gained within highly complex and customer-centric organisations. The search strategy focused on identifying Finance Directors/COOs across Further Education, Higher Education, the wider public sector and private sector organisations. In the case of the private sector, the emphasis was on individuals in large business process outsourcing providers, who would have the knowledge and experience to genuinely transform the fortunes of the Colleges. The proposition to candidates majored on the complexity of the operating environment, the opportunity to really influence change, and the potential to contribute to the future success of the Federation. Wickland Westcott’s experience with private sector candidates has taught us that emphasising the value they can add to the sector, and the success they can achieve within it, are powerful messages in persuading them to engage in the process.

The search delivered a shortlist comprising five candidates; three of these were from outside the sector. The appointed candidate came from a leading private sector business providing global technical support services.

Chief Executive, Marion Plant, commented: “This is a pivotal appointment for the Federation. We required a Search partner who could not only identify those individuals with a blend of commercial skills and appreciation of the dynamics of the FE Sector, but could also persuasively sell our vision for the Federation.  We retained Wickland Westcott for its reputation and expertise in attracting commercially-oriented executives. Our chosen candidate brings the right combination of experience and technical expertise to strengthen the senior team, increase our competitive edge and help us to transform the Federation into a leading Education provider”.