I am often asked why I wanted to teach in the Further Education and Skills sector. My response is always the same – as a student in FE, it afforded me the opportunity to learn in ways I had never experienced before, it helped me to succeed and grow academically and personally and it assisted me to move on to bigger and better things professionally.
When I say ‘it’ what I really mean is the teachers – they were experts in their subject, inspirational in their delivery and passionate about me realising my potential. The truth is I wanted to be just like them!
When I started working as a teacher in the sector my desire to progress and move upwards and onwards continued and I was encouraged to do so, just as before. As many teachers in FE, I progressed into middle management and then senior leadership roles. For those willing and able, the opportunities for promotion are many.
Although I now work in Higher Education, my passion for the FE sector has never waned and I continue to contribute to the sector, through college governance.
So what makes the sector so special?
The number of places a student can access learning opportunities in the FE sector is varied, from FE colleges (288 in England as at Sept 17), to sixth form colleges, adult education providers, private work-based learning providers and prisons. FE colleges alone prepare 2.2 million students with the valuable skills needed for employment, supporting them to enhance their individual career opportunities (AOC, 2017).
Courses range from the traditional to almost any vocational course you can think of.
And the students? FE students come from a range of backgrounds and experiences, and may enter further education from local schools, the community, industry or local businesses. 24% of 16-18 year olds and 31% of adults are classified as BME (AOC, 2017). The youngest student I taught was 14 and the oldest 91. Statistics show that 90,000 college students are aged 60 or over (AOC, 2017).
But what about the staff? Many teachers come from industry looking for a career change and many come straight out of University, with a desire to teach their degree subject. Teacher training can be full time or part time – I took the latter pathway choosing to work as an unqualified teacher alongside training but many of my peers opted for the full-time route – there is no right or wrong way to train, student loans are available for all, and bursaries are available for those wishing to teach English and maths.
FE is known as the second chance sector for a reason – it affords young people and those who may be classified as ‘mature’ (a bit like me!) a second chance to learn, succeed, grow and transform academically, professionally and personally.
This having been said it is fast becoming the first choice for many young people and adults, because of the range of provision available and the opportunity it affords for success – colleges enjoyed an achievement rate of some 82% in 17-18 (AOC, 2017).
It’s dynamic, exciting, challenging and progressive ….
Dealing with constant policy change and reform the FE sector and the teachers working in it are resilient, tough, flexible, adaptable and adept at managing change. The excitement, challenges and opportunities afforded by landscape change are many.
So given my time again would I follow the same career path – absolutely 100%. Interested in finding out more?
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