An innovative programme delivered by a South Lakeland charity and University of Cumbria is helping nurture the leaders of the future.

The Aspiring Leaders programme,a collaboration between the Brathay Trust, near Ambleside, University of Cumbria and leadership organisation Common Purpose, has been running since 2011.

So far, three intakes totalling around 40 students have taken part in the programme which aims to prepare people aged between 20 and 30 from Cumbria and North Lancashire to be leaders in the voluntary and community sector.

Over the three-year programme, participants take part in leadership and personal development residentials at Brathay’s home at Brathay Hall, as well as attending degree lectures and seminars at the university.

They complete it with a degree in social enterprise leadership, with the course involving a large amount of practical work at local organisations as well as with mentors.

“All the learning can be applied straight away,” said Andy Woodhead, a learning and development consultant for Brathay who oversees the course.

The course is aimed at younger people who may not have had the opportunity to go to university in the past, or were not particularly academic.

“It’s important to say that some participants might have had a troubled upbringing,” he said.

“Some of them got involved in social enterprises through being a service user and that’s the organisation they now work at.

“There are other people who have had a relatively straightforward run at life and have found themselves working for charities or voluntary organisations.

“The majority have some background in it and that’s probably what’s drawn them to working in the sector in the first place.

“They want to give back the benefit they found from working with these organisations.

“The programme is structured around them potentially coming in with low aspiration and low self-confidence.

“The first year is focused on understanding self – so how I work and what my strengths are what do I need to develop.”

Students are given a grounding in what social enterprises are and how they work and are governed.

"The second year is understanding how teams work,” Andy said.

“We are also looking at how you develop a social enterprise from an idea to something that is working.

“The final year is looking at leadership – how you use coaching and mentoring in the voluntary sector to improve performance, creating the right atmosphere and looking at different methods and models of leadership.

“We’re looking at contemporary challenges so how organisations can overcome things being faced like lack of volunteers or lack of funding.

“We’ve gone into different organisations in Cumbria to understand what their different challenges are, what drives them, how they started.”

Students are also mentored throughout the programme, initially by staff from Brathay and, in year two and three, by a mentor from Common Purpose.

“The mentoring in year two and three is with people who are chief execs or very high up in organisations and someone who has fought their way and had some challenges to overcome,” said Andy.

The Francis C Scott Charitable Trust Fund, which supports charities in Cumbria and Lancashire, initially funded 90 per cent of the course, but will reduce this over the coming years.

The current programme is also being supported by the Langdale Timeshare Owners’ Club and the Sir John Fisher Foundation, which have funded a student each.

Andy said: “We’ve had additional funding from Rathbone Investment Management.

“We are looking for more people to be supporting places on the programme. The ideal would be that ultimately the programme is supported by organisations in the community."