From education to employment

What Further Education Means For David Russell of the Learning and Skills Council

Further Education is growing. More and more people both rely on it for their education and training, and for their employment as trainers, instructors, administrators. With this series, Further Education Talks Back, we hope to give the thoughts and opinions of the people actually working on the front line of Further Education the attention they deserve.

David Russell, the National Director of Resources for the National Learning and Skills Council shares his thoughts on Further Education with us.

Q: What first interested you in the Further Education sector?

David: My earlier career in the Department for Education and Skills involved funding universities and further education colleges. The sheer scale and complexity of further education was a revelation. When I joined the Further Education Funding Council and visited colleges regularly, I met so many learners whose lives had been transformed by education. It is a highly motivating sector to work in.

Q: How has your job developed day ““ to ““ day over the past few years?

David: I”ve recently taken over responsibility for funding and finance, and I”m leading the task group which aims to simplify data collection and data sharing with colleges. I was busy before but I”m now extremely busy. It’s a challenging but very interesting job and I”m learning to love the daily pressure.

Q: What is the one overriding issue for you in today’s FE sector? How would you like to see it resolved?

David: The big issue for me is the role of further education. Schools and universities are well understood by the public. The further education sector is so diverse in terms of the learners it caters for, its institutions and curriculum offer, and its role is not well understood by politicians or business. Its role and mission need to be clarified and simplified.

Q: What is your proudest moment or achievement in your work?

David: I think my human resources team did a great job in managing the transfer of over 5,000 people into the LSC in 2001. This was a hugely complex undertaking as we were merging 74 different institutions. My Information Systems team set up a new network for the LSC in just six months, while keeping the 600 legacy systems from previous employers operating. These “back office” teams are unknown outside of the LSC but their achievements have enabled the organisation to work effectively.

Q: Do you feel that the general public often misunderstand the importance of the FE sector? How can this be changed, if so?

David: The big issue of the moment is funding. Funding for Government priorities ““ 16-18 year olds, Apprenticeships, Basic Skills, first full Level 2 qualifications ““ is available. Colleges have received increases well above inflation over recent years, but demand in these areas is increasing fast. The budget for further education is fixed until 2008 and we are seeing a switch from non-priority to priority learning. How can it be resolved? Colleges need to accept that the Government will only fund its priorities. These have been clearly set out in the 14-19 and Skills White Papers. Existing adult provision needs to be aligned with these priorities. Employers need to pay the full economic cost of training their employees and employed learners need to pay an appropriate fee for their learning. We need to get the balance right between the state, employees and individuals.

We would like to thank David Russell and the team at the Learning and Skills Council for their participation in this series.

Jethro Marsh

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