“If I had one message for someone looking to work in further education it would be this: Come and help change people’s lives and improve society.” That’s the message from David Hughes, the new Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC).
In an interview for AoC Jobs, David highlighted that the further education (FE) sector is filled with passionate and dedicated people who are looking to help build the next generation of workers for this country. Here’s his full interview:
Most of my work there was trying to influence national and local governments in England and Wales to think about the world where people could achieve what they wanted to in life through a good education, good opportunities to learn and good skills. It was about fulfilment for people not just in work, but also in life and their communities, supporting a more inclusive world. So it was an influencing job and it was doing a lot of research to back up the idea and the concept of lifelong learning.
A good example of lifelong learning is Amanda. She was brought up on a working class estate, her kids were a bit tearaway and she left school early with no qualifications. She got invited by a friend to do a belly dancing class run by Sussex University on her estate as part of their outreach programme and thought it was quite good fun. The university spotted there was something about her and she had potential. Long story short, she ended up doing a history degree, getting a first, and completing a teacher qualification. She is now doing community teaching and works in the Pavilion Museum in Brighton. It changed her life and she is now advising people on the estate about the value of learning and education and was an Ambassador for Learning and Work Institute. She ended up going from belly dancing to Buckingham Palace, where she spoke as an Ambassador for the Learning and Work Institute. Her story is really inspirational and highlights the power of education.
I think we need colleges to be in every community offering fantastic opportunities to young people and adults. There are some challenges at the moment for colleges – funding cuts have hit all of the public sector and colleges have found it particularly tough. There are lots of young people and adults who need and would benefit from, support. Colleges are really important in delivering that. So I want to support college interests, promote them more, get policy and funding to support colleges to be able to do more and support people. I’ve been here a month and its fantastic!
There are lots of businesses which cannot get skilled people to do the jobs that need to be done. Over the last 15 to 25 years, lots of those jobs have been filled by skilled immigrants. As and when Brexit happens, skilled immigration is likely to be more difficult. That’s why we need to support colleges to give more opportunities for people to improve their skills and to move up the ladder. Colleges are probably the only places that can do that effectively in every community. So we need the Government to step up to the mark with some additional funding and encourage people to invest in those opportunities.
The ESF has been really important in reaching out to disadvantaged people, unemployed people, young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET). It would be a real shame if all that got lost – thousands of people would miss out. So we have been calling on Treasury and the Department for Education to replace ESF with an English Social Fund – it even has the same acronym – to make sure that funding and those opportunities aren’t lost.
The main piece of advice is that if you are at all interested in helping the next generation of skilled people, an FE college is the place to go and work. Colleges work with people from 14 years of age all the way up to 105. It is particularly important that people get industry relevant skills, and it’s really difficult to get this all the time. So the sector needs people who want to make that transition and can bridge across to train the next generation in the cutting edge skills needed for the labour market.
It’s a sector with lots of energy, passion and can-do attitudes. It needs people for whom the glass is half full, not half empty because you have to motivate people, particularly young people who may not have enjoyed their education. You have to believe in people and in their potential. If that’s what you believe in, then it’s a great place to work.
Come and help change people’s lives and improve our society.
If you want to work in FE you can find latest jobs in the college sector on AoC Jobs.
If you want to be a teacher within a further education sector, visit our Get into FE teaching section, where you can find out how rewarding a teaching career in FE can be. You can also view the latest jobs that offer teacher training, if you are new to teaching and don't have qualifications.