SKILLS development agency PATH National is working in partnership with the Association of London Environmental Health Managers (ALEHM), the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and Middlesex University to create a national programme that addresses staff recruitment and retention issues in the environmental health sector. Supported by the London Development Agency (LDA), PATH's focus is on addressing skills deficits and enhancing workforce diversity through training interventions aimed at black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals.
According to the 2001 census, BAME groups make up 7.9 per cent of the UK population and nearly a third of Londoners.
Yet in the environmental health sector, only 3.9 per cent of staff are from BAME groups. It is a statistic that is at odds with the growing recognition that delivery of public services can be improved if the workforce better reflects the community it serves.
Working closely with several environmental health departments within London local authorities, PATH launched a three-year programme pilot in 2004 which offered nine traineeships in boroughs including Richmond, Ealing, Greenwich and Haringey. These traineeships incorporate work-based learning and the chance to gain a relevant accredited qualification
the first cohort is completing either a BSc in Environmental Health at Middlesex University or an MSc at King's College, London.
When the scheme expands its intake in September, trainees will also have the option of taking a Level 4 Certificate of Higher Education in Housing Practice and Environmental Health at Middlesex..
Rehana Begum, 26, signed up on the urging of her boss in the environmental health department at the London Borough of Newham where she had been an administrator since graduating from the University of East London in 2001.
"My job often involved taking calls from restaurant owners and landlords who had taken issue with our work, wondering why they had to register their property, for example," she recalls.
"I explained to my boss that it would help me to understand their concerns if I could go out with the officers and find out more about what they did. When my boss suggested the traineeship, I jumped at the chance." As a trainee, Rehana has finished a series of placements around the department and is compiling an Experiential Learning Portfolio (ELP), documenting her experience in environmental health including food poisoning cases, noise complaints, food safety and community health. …