From education to employment

FE teaching changes lives for the better

Dr Vikki Smith, Director of Education, the Education and Training Foundation

We are undoubtedly in a time of great economic challenge. The Covid-19 pandemic and more recently, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are having a significant impact on our economy.

Not only that, but we also face an array of health, demographic, environmental, technological and social challenges, which will require careful policy development and implementation to tackle head-on.

Levelling up

The Government’s ‘build back better’ and ‘levelling up’ agendas have set out a range of policy proposals to tackle some of these important issues.

The ‘Levelling Up the UK’ white paper indicates nearly all jobs will change by 2030, in some cases radically, with up to 90% of the workforce needing to be reskilled. A thriving FE sector is critical to the UK’s ability to meet these and the wider systemic challenges.

Significantly, in a 2021 ETF/YouGov survey, Further Education and Training was identified by the public as being one of their top three priorities for delivering levelling up.

The FE white paper: skills for jobs for lifelong learning opportunity and growth, published in January 2021, again places the Further Education and Training sector front and centre in contributing to the challenges that lie ahead.

Yet recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers, particularly attracting new candidates to technical and vocational teaching roles, continues to be a critical issue. Indeed, a recent report from the Association of Colleges highlights the worst staffing crisis in two decades in England’s colleges.

Boosting sector recruitment

The Department for Education’s recruitment campaign launched earlier this year to boost the number of teachers into FE and Training is a welcome development.

There are other important initiatives, such as the ETF’s ‘Taking Teaching Further’, which has just launched its fifth round, and aims to attract high-quality teaching professionals from industry. Our ‘Talent to Teach’ programme aims to offer a taster of FE teaching to university students and graduates.

And through the Society of Education and Training we are supporting 22,000 teaching professionals, including free membership for students taking those important first steps into their teaching careers.

New ETF report

There is of course more that we can and must do to boost recruitment and retention. As a result, the ETF commissioned a report from independent researchers ICF. ‘FE Teacher Recruitment and the Landscape of FE’ paints a picture of the current state of play and provides some recommendations on how we can build a workforce which fits the needs of future learners.

As well as researching data and trends on sector job vacancy boards, the report looks at future demand for FE recruitment and estimates that a further 632,000 jobs will need to be filled over the decade due to factors such as retirement and occupational mobility.

The report found that almost half of FE jobs (45%) advertised are part time roles, while 30% are temporary positions. This indicates that colleges and training providers are already taking an increasingly pragmatic and flexible approach to this retention and recruitment challenge.

There was particular demand for maths, English, SEN and science teachers, relative to the size of their workforce. Other subjects with a high number of hard-to-fill vacancies included construction, engineering, healthcare and social care.

The report calls for a more strategic approach to recruitment, by building sector capacity, scaling-up successful initiatives, and offering better support to teachers and trainers throughout their careers.

Looking ahead

The challenge is to create a workforce of experienced, skilled and talented teachers to inspire the next generation of industry experts. Investment in FE and Training supports social mobility, economic development and boosts innovation and productivity.

Over the coming months, the ETF is embarking on an engagement exercise to understand how we can best support the sector tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

To read the report, please visit the Education and Training Foundation website –

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