Student support workers in further education (FE) provide support to students to help them better understand and participate in classes. The role can vary from college to college but you will be expected to adjust learning resources to meet different students’ needs.
Good communication skills are needed so ideas can be relayed clearly to students. Delivering a high and dependable level of student support requires good time management and flexibility. And remember — patience is a virtue.
Student support workers are tasked with providing support for students encompassing all aspects of learning and development. This can include helping students organise their travel to and from college.
Paul Warren has worked in FE for more than 13 years as a learning support assistant and believes that the key aim of working in FE support is to empower students to have a larger level of independence than when they started.
Warren explains how worthwhile being a member of FE support staff can be, stressing that “the role primarily exists to help to change a student’s mindset from that of ‘I didn’t think I could’ to ‘now I know I can’”.
He adds that his role has seen him “incorporate visualisation as a strategy”, which has helped students focus on achieving a goal.
It has been widely acknowledged that social mobility could be improved in the UK. FE is a key area in raising social mobility at a time when the new Conservative government repeatedly talks of ‘leveling up’.
Student support workers are crucial in helping provide support for the most disadvantaged pupils and the best colleges use their resources towards this goal.
As the chief executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes explained in 2019: “Colleges offer life-changing opportunities for millions of people each year – if we are serious about improving social mobility, we need to be serious about supporting colleges.”
It is to be expected that colleges ask for a minimum of grade A-C in GCSE English and Maths. Experience working with students with a range of learning needs will be essential more often than not. Experience of working within the FE sphere will be desirable but don’t be put off from applying for student support worker role if you don't have this.
Transferable skills from other roles, such as strong written and oral communication, and interpersonal skills will be looked upon favorably.
The Association of Colleges’ Student Services Network offers an important platform for those who support students in FE. The network offers a forum for best practice-sharing and it supports continuing professional development.