From education to employment

Editor Jethro Marsh on FE Talking Point

There is a lot of discussion regarding the task that faces Further Education, and within this there is a degree of agreement across the sector.

A key feature of FE throughout the decades of existence has been the job of promoting inclusion and widening participation; that is to say, the task of making it possible for millions of learners neglected or not adequately catered for within the Higher Education sector to enter or re ““ enter learning, for any purpose ranging from a drastic change in career all the way through to personal fulfilment of a dream from childhood.


At one point, I was a viola and violin teacher (talking of chequered careers!) and was fortunate enough to be involved in teaching mostly adult beginner students. One lady springs immediately to mind, who lived in Clapham and came to me for lessons in 2002. She was clearly nervous in her first lesson, but not because this was something new and neither different for her; nor even because she was worried that I would prove to be a strict and dictatorial teacher. Those who know me will all too rapidly say how far from intimidating I am!

At any rate, leaving my ogre – hood or lack thereof aside, she was not nervous on these matters; she was more nervous because she was finally, at the age of sixty five, realising a dream she had held since childhood, and had decided to learn the viola. Leaving aside the choice of the viola, which is the butt of all too many unkind musician jokes already without having my additions, the decision to learn a new instrument later in life is one of the most courageous that can be taken and is one that I have unending respect for.


There are parallels with the FE sector here that struck me on Friday afternoon, as I sat before my humming and glowing screen typing furiously. I received a phone call from a young guitarist who for reasons best known to him had decided to take up the viola. During the conversation we began to discuss teaching styles as I wracked my brains for a colleague who could take another student. He mentioned that he had had lessons before, and that the teaching style had not really been suitable for him.

As we were discussing flexibility, it occurred to me that this is one of the key practices that FE needs to embrace. Because of the very nature of the sector, there have to be a vast number of different delivery systems for learning to suit the individual needs of the learner. What will work brilliantly and flawlessly for one learner will fail to make another feel involved, inspired, enthusiastic.

There is a great emphasis today on the requirements of employers and the skills that the economy will require for the successful development of the national economy in the increasingly competitive global economic environment. This is, it goes without saying, necessary and understandable; and many courses should be targeted at the requirements of employers. One extremely laudable example of this is the work being done by the Securities and Investment Institute (SII) which seeks to break down barriers to entry into the industry that are maintained through inertia; and we will be following the development and success of their work closely here at FE News.

It is necessary to remember that this is not the be ““ all and end ““ the entire sector. When funding decisions are taken, they must through necessity focus on the requirements and expectations of the Government. There remain hundreds of thousands of learners in FE who do not seek to learn to join the workforce, or re ““ enter the workforce. FE also has a responsibility to encourage and assist those who seek to learn for their own or for learning’s sake; hopefully the comprehensive and impressive Foster Review will not result in a blinkered approach that excludes people who learn to live out a dream.

Jethro Marsh

Keep your FE opinion in circulation right here on the FE Blog

Related Articles