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FE managers need to catch up


Many college managers in FE need new skills or qualifications to cope with a changing world, according to the annual skills foresight survey, published by FENTO. Increasing numbers of colleges are identifying skills gaps among their managers.

However, rather then concluding that mangers have lost skills since the last survey, the study suggests that new pressures facing FE, including the arrival in England of the Learning and Skills Council, have led to more colleges recognising the need for managers to develop new or wider skills.

In the study 42 per cent identified performance management as a skills gap, compared with 35 per cent in 2000/01. More than 10 per cent of respondents said the lack of managers with performance management skills was having a serious effect on their institution. More than one third (35 per cent) acknowledge gaps in generic management skills – up from 21 per cent a year ago. Financial understanding was a skills gap in 33 per cent of colleges (up from 18 per cent).

Only a relatively small proportion of college managers possess appropriate management qualifications that are likely to help them overcome skills gaps. But at least colleges are taking steps to rectify this situation. The study found that, on average, 87 per cent of managers had participated in continuing professional development during the last year and, in more than half of colleges (56 per cent), all managers had taken part in CPD.

Other findings
- 25 per cent of colleges had major difficulties recruiting course leaders and managers.

- 22 per cent failed to recruit engineering lecturers.

- 16 per cent failed to recruit suitable basic skills teachers.

- 62 per cent had major problems recruiting accountancy lecturers.

- 10 per cent could not recruit suitable IT staff.

- 26 per cent had difficulties recruiting key/core skills staff.

The report highlights the effects of the growing casualisation of the FE workforce: "Failure to recruit leads to greater workloads for existing staff and greater reliance on temporary or part-time workers." This finding echoes the recent report of John Healey, Under Secretary of State for Adult Skills to the Education and Skills Select Committee. The main reasons given for recruitment problems are the inability of colleges to offer attractive remuneration, and hence the inadequate experience and qualifications of candidates who apply for vacancies. Although there are not such widespread problems in filling principal and other senior management posts, the survey found 28 vice principal or director vacancies - one fifth of which were very difficult to fill. The report states: "There can be no doubt that significant difficulties in recruiting key management staff will be followed by difficulties in maintaining and improving standards."

On the positive side, there are clear indications that staff development has led to colleges overcoming most skills and knowledge weaknesses relating to the delivery of Curriculum 2000. Similarly, there are fewer concerns about the skills required to teach disaffected students, although 31 per cent still recognise gaps in this area.

The survey suggests that about two in five lecturers are already qualified as teachers when they are appointed by colleges. Traditionally, non-qualified lecturers have undergone in-service training leading to a teaching qualification but, under new regulations, this is now a specific requirement on colleges and individual staff. In autumn 2001, the study found, colleges employed an average of 11 staff with teaching qualifications and 17 who were not yet qualified as teachers.

Copies of the report ‘Skills Foresight for Further Education 2001/02’ are available from FENTO. For further information contact David Hunter, FENTO chief executive, or Pauline Lovell, director of business development, on 020 7242 4662.


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