What does the term Further Education (FE) mean to you? Perhaps you studied at sixth-form and completed you’re A ‘levels there. Maybe you’ve enquired about a hobby related course at a local college. The fact is that FE is both these things and a lot more. There are a great many different ways to brush up on your skills, indulge your pastimes, qualify in your chosen area and boost your expertise. The FE sector is vast, and varied, with plenty of opportunities to progress in teaching and teaching-related roles.
A diverse sector
Consider the wide range of education options available after school, but before university. This cavernous area is made up of a rich spread of organisations; sixth forms, colleges, council-run education centres, community centres, charities, offender learning centres, private training providers including those that support individuals back into work, and those that provide work-based training. As FE has grown so it has begun to overlap with compulsory and Higher Education (HE), often considered the best place to learn vocational skills, or study towards a HE qualification in a more flexible, cost effective way. Those accessing FE are as diverse as this range of organisations may suggest. You may find yourself working with young people or retirees, those wanting to start their education from the beginning or who want to enhance their skillset and professionalise their talents. A broad range of ages, abilities and backgrounds all access FE; 20% of the college population are ethnic minority students, and over half are aged 25 or over. Just as diverse are the range of subjects taught at this level, stretching far beyond the limits of the National Curriculum. Take a moment to reflect on your work experience, skills, hobbies and past times; chances are there’s something you’ve learnt that could be valuable to someone else.
Role of FE in a recovering economy
Politically-speaking there’s a great deal of focus on apprenticeships after a government pledge to create an extra 50,000, almost exclusively administered and supported by FE in partnership with employers. English and maths are often ring-fenced as the UK strives to boost its literacy and numeracy levels. A diverse and robust education system is crucial in a recovering economy, and FE plays a central role by equipping people with work and life skills. Through widening participation FE organisations are raising the aspiration and attainment levels of the communities they are located in. Furthermore, FE students age 19 and over will generate an extra £75 billion for the economy over their lifetimes.
Something for everyone
Maybe you’re the type of person who’s results orientated and motivated by success. Or you could have a great appreciation for your subject, driven by sharing your passion. Perhaps you see yourself as a person who promotes social change, who reaches out to support those who need it the most. The reality is that most FE teachers identify with all of these tenets. A recent report commissioned by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) found that the average age of an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) entrant in this sector is 38. This illuminates FE as a common choice as a second career; one where life skills and experience are valued. The industry is seeking to further professionalise itself with a recent focus on standardising CPD and promoting good practice.
As a teacher in this field there are a range of full and part time roles. Alternatively if you’re carving out a portfolio career, you’ll find a wealth of sessional opportunities, giving you the time and flexibility to pursue other avenues. FE stands out as a challenging yet rewarding sector, where it’s possible to focus on your strengths and find your niche. Want to know more? Read on to find out about career paths and qualifications.