In preparing our responses to the government's Skills for Sustainable Growth consultation, I think we need to consider the inheritance we are creating for future generations, as well as our short-term business and economic needs.

Like many people, I spent some of my summer holiday catching up on decorating. While perched on a stepladder painting at one point, I was also thinking about the best way to saw old planks, and debating whether it would be best to use gabions or the more expensive system with integrated drainage when rebuilding our 200-year-old dry stone wall.

These are vocational questions. With every mental turn, I was considering dangers. Would the wall collapse further unless the repairs were done swiftly? Was the stepladder high enough to reach the corner of the ceiling safely? Would the clamps be secure enough for sawing using the sturdy garden table, or did I need a workbench? These are health and safety questions.

My thoughts moved to another level. "How come I was equipped to consider these health and safety and vocational matters?"

I quickly recognised the very long arm of further education teachers. In the 1940s, my father left school at 14 to go to work when his father died and his mother was sent to a mental hospital. He enrolled at the Bradford 'tech' to learn a trade, while working in a factory, and went on to become a wool-combing expert and manager. His teachers at the 'tech' made a huge impact on him. Because of further education, he passed on to his children many practical skills, as well as an understanding of the underpinning theories, such as using the forces of gravity to help lift heavy loads. He inspired us to be fascinated with mathematics.

No Ofsted inspection, Framework for Excellence rating or course labelling system will do justice to the far-reaching impact of further education across generations now and in the future. Our further education and skills sector is a precious public good. We should never forget its reach and the massive contribution it makes to our nation's and local communities' social and economic fabric.

Nor should we forget the breadth of the reach. While on holiday in Cornwall, I visited Lansallis Church, where I chatted with the joiner working on an elaborate new screen, and admired the restoration work to the church ceilings and roof following a large fire. In response to my usual question about where he learned his skills, the joiner explained that he had trained at college in boatbuilding and that these skills transferred well to his work now. "If you think about it," he told me, "a church is an upside-down boat, and it needs to be just as weatherproof and long-lasting!" In Cornwall's local economy, the more seasonal employment in boatbuilding fits well with less seasonal work in heritage projects.

Vocational education does not usually get the attention and recognition it needs and deserves, so how better to start the teaching year than to hear about the proposed review of vocational education for 14 to 19-year-olds being led by Professor Alison Wolf.

The adults and young people who benefit from brilliant vocational teaching today in further education and skills will be our next generations of technical and practical specialists. They are key to our economic recovery and growth, and our ability to compete globally.

And I hope that they too will pass on an enduring vocational legacy to their colleagues and children – the long arm of further education, on high days, holidays and throughout the working year.

Toni Fazaeli is the chief executive of the Institute for Learning (IfL), the professional body for teachers, trainers, tutors and student teachers across the further education and skills sector


Read other FE News articles by Toni Fazaeli:

Red letter year for A-level and first ever Advanced Diploma results

Quantum physics and why new teachers cry

The role of professionals in times of scarce resourcing

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The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

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Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

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Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

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FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

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We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

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We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

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