Sonia Bilkhu, who works at the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum supporting vulnerable Syrian refugees, believes that Nottingham could lead the way in terms of making leadership more diverse and representative across the UK:
“Around the country, there’s presently a clear barrier between those who have ‘made it to the top’ and those who have not, but I’m hopeful the programme will help make leadership in Nottingham more diverse and open up doors of opportunity, so everyone in the community can benefit from having their voices heard and their opinions represented.”
The Future Leaders programme includes masterclasses, workshops and activities held at venues around the city, and pairs participants with mentors, who are already leaders in the city.
Zabina Kauser, a Tenancy Sustainment Officer with Nottingham City Homes, said:
“The programme is encouraging me to learn more, get rid of self-doubts, believe in myself and aim high. My mentor is Sandeep Mahal, Director at Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature. She’s very inspirational and her journey in life has some similarities to mine.”
Luke Jackson, an Energy Projects Service Manager at Nottingham City Council, told us the programme is helping him rediscover his love for his home city, after 10 years working in London in the private sector.
“My inspiration is the people of Nottingham and the possibility of representing them in a senior leadership role. The opportunity to create genuine, long-lasting positive change is the reason I moved back to my home city and the programme is helping me become a leader of the future.”
“The programme is the start of something that will develop into something greater and benefit the city and its communities as a whole, which is what Nottingham has been, and will always be, about. It would be great if the programme was available nationally, so future leaders in different cities could get the chance to be a voice for others.”
The programme is supported by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, Nottingham City Homes, Futures Advice, Skills and Employment Ltd and Communities Inc.
Colette Elton, a Maintenance Manager from Nottingham City Homes, agrees:
“I think it’s a great programme and has forged a network of people that’s built to last. The group is very diverse and everybody brings a different dynamic; the wealth of experience between us all is so unique. It’s an exciting prospect for the future of Nottingham.”
April Holmes, a Community Protection Officer at Central Police Station, told us:
“My leadership skills are continually improving and I’m becoming more confident in taking the lead. I’m also more actively involved in areas of work I feel passionate about such as equality and diversity issues. Since starting the programme, I’ve become a Positive About Recruitment Champion, an initiative which helps recruit individuals from underrepresented minorities by making interview panels more representative, and I’m leading on equality and diversity within my team.”
Lisa Allison, a Media Officer at Nottingham City Council, said:
“The programme is helping me access some great opportunities. For example, I’ve been given a place on the Board of a major regeneration project in the city, consisting of Heads of Services and Directors from across Nottingham City Council. The skills I’m learning are helping to build my confidence and understand how I can influence change and opinions and get my voice heard.”