From education to employment

Stick or Twist – FE takes a gamble

News this week that the area review transition fund has still yet to unfold and reveal its hand has left us guessing. Many providers keen to take advantage of the opportunity to kick-start their improvement planning for the next academic year will be considering where and how to use the support to deliver coherent and ambitious plans.

FE leaders are not only left in doubt over area review plans, but must also ensure the best interests of their institution are served in the meanwhile in a difficult and uncertain time. They must continue to build their teams, develop new business and build lasting trusted relationships in this uncertain climate.

Even though the deck is loaded and they have been left guessing where to focus their energy over the next academic and financial year, many leaders recognise that the soundest investment will be in their team. It is essential for these education establishments to have a robust selection process and a talent management strategy that echoes that of the community workforce it is attempting to up skill. There is no escaping that fact that college leaders are running substantial turnover businesses these days and should have the appropriate business acumen and capability in their teams to be able to manage such enterprises both now and in the multi-disciplinary teams that will emerge over the coming years.

We have seen all too real in recent FE failures the effects of strategy defined by unrealistic and unobtainable goals leading to the pursuit of the wrong initiatives to generate income. With the continued questions over issues as broad as government funding and levy allocations, colleges and other FE providers are being forced to be more entrepreneurial. Attracting more overseas students to the UK and engaging more in transnational education and partnerships with businesses to deliver the skills and knowledge has been a consistent pattern. It begs the question as to how robust the financial and risk management processes are and highlights the critical need for more project management and business development capability that will form part of these new business models in the coming months.

The challenge faced by many is gambling on merger and restructure or developing shared and multi-faceted business models that can engage with, develop and co-ordinate a range of provision across borders county and countrywide. In the wake of electoral outcomes in the coming weeks and our immanent departure from the EU, perhaps the horizon will become clearer.

However, is merging and restructuring the answer, perhaps it only serves to cover up the cracks or deflects us from addressing the real issues at stake? Shouldn’t we be asking  have   FE providers got the appropriate products, services and markets  required for the new emerging global economy, and are they equipped with the business skills to deliver?

Tim Evans and David Wolstenholme are working with David McIntyre of GunnerCooke to assist FE institutions to successfully strategise and transform in this uncertain environment

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