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ukactive launches LeadAbility programme to inspire new generation of disabled leaders

By Kim Megson    27 Oct 2016
(L-R) Hilary Farmiloe, Aspire InstructAbility Manager; Steve Ward, ukactive Executive Director; Penny Mordaunt MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, Work & Health; Joe Townsend, Matrix Ambassador; and Michelle Smith, Matrix Marketing Exec / ukactive
This demonstrates another proactive step towards being the all-inclusive sector that we aspire to be, whether it is in our teams or growing our market by attracting new people through our doors
– Tanni Grey-Thompson, ukactive chair

Not-for-profit health body ukactive has launched a new scholarship initiative to fast-track talented disabled people into senior leadership positions across the physical activity sector.

The Matrix LeadAbility Scholarship Programme will initially provide fully funded places for “up and coming” disabled leaders on the 2017 Future Leaders Programme run by ukactive and University of Navarra in Spain.

During a week-long course with a network of peers at the university’s IESE Business School in Barcelona, participants will receive expert teaching, training and mentoring to develop their strategic, commercial and leadership skills.

Statistics published by the Department for Work and Pensions show that despite making up 15 per cent of the workforce, disabled people remain significantly less likely to be in some form of employment. According to Disability Rights UK, there is a particularly stark contrast at the senior leadership level, where non-disabled people are three times as likely to earn over £80,000 as disabled people, and twice as likely to be board level directors.

“LeadAbility provides a fantastic opportunity to diversify our workforce by helping disabled people land senior positions in the physical activity sector based solely on merit,” said ukactive chair Tanni Grey-Thompson. “It also demonstrates another proactive step towards being the all-inclusive sector that we aspire to be, whether it is in our teams or growing our market by attracting new people through our doors who might have previously felt our services were not for them – both disabled people and the wider population.

“This is a perfect opportunity for employers to get behind the scheme and help shape the future, rather than being part of the past sector we are leaving behind.”

The scholarship programme will be sponsored by Matrix Fitness and co-ordinated by ukactive in conjunction with Aspire, a national charity that works mainly with people who have been paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury. Together they will establish a talent identification panel to select LeadAbility scholarship candidates.

ukactive executive director Steven Ward believes the scheme will “unlock the door to boardrooms across the physical activity sector.”

“The programme will eschew tokenism and provide a rigorous and challenging learning experience, which will provide successful candidates with the skills and confidence to take physical activity to new heights and make it accessible to every community in Britain," Ward said.

“It’s only worth applying if there is total confidence that a candidate has the ability to one day serve as a CEO or senior director of one of the leading organisations in our sector.”

The latest Sport England Active People Survey figures show that disabled people are half as likely to be active as non-disabled people, often because exercise opportunities are inaccessible, unappealing or inadequately marketed.

ukactive believes that this can be rectified by ensuring industry jobs “are more accessible to disabled staff, from the boardroom right through to the weights room.”

ukactive  LeadAbility  Future Leaders  Matrix LeadAbility Scholarship Programme  
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