We have seen massive upheaval due to COVID-19, with learning disrupted and delivery moved online. However, this academic year brings optimism that further education is finally being given the attention it deserves, with a promise of £1.5 billion investment from the government (announced in September 2020) to upgrade and improve colleges across the UK.
The impact of COVID-19
The impact of the pandemic has resulted in demand for additional learning support assistants, and new roles such as classroom cover tutors and online facilitators. Excitingly, we have seen a rise in interest for courses and lecturers for construction, engineering, and health and care. Learners are now looking at ways they can make a difference, with many reskilling or upskilling themselves in these industries.
How the pandemic has affected colleges
There is currently great job security in education, unlike other sectors, but candidates need to update their digital skills. Many colleges were slowly exploring online learning but were forced to adapt to virtual or blended learning far quicker because of COVID-19, so candidates must be resilient to rapid change.
Colleges should keep an open mind when recruiting, looking for candidates that bring fresh skills and who can be shaped to fit their organisational needs. However, institutions can now recruit from a national pool of potential candidates for online delivery – this creates greater opportunities for candidates and holds the potential to expand colleges’ curriculum offering.
Candidates should be aware of the key attributes that employers are now looking for; transferable skills, remote teaching, and the ability to engage students via a range of media tools – both inside the classroom and online.
The training provider job landscape
We are hoping that all training providers will be remote onboarding, or restarting remote learning, but this has been the most affected area since March 2020 due to redundancies and apprentices being on furlough. However, we are expecting to see a big reverse in 2021, due to increased government funding, and should once again see the market thrive.
The strongest candidates in the market are often already in roles and only consider moving to new companies for a higher salary, better benefits or less travel. Clients looking for these candidates should ensure they have detailed job descriptions for any open roles.
Candidates should remain as flexible as possible with travel. It is always useful to include success rates, observation grades, and other specific achievements on a CV.
COVID-19's impact on prison tutoring
For prisons, recruitment has just started to pick up following months of no new sessional staff. We are seeing an influx of requests for industry tutors and in teaching roles within different prison departments, such as in resettlement, and information and guidance roles. This brings exciting new opportunities.
During lockdown, learners were in their cells for up to 23 hours per day and studying from work packs. This, perhaps surprisingly, had a positive impact on their mental health, with suicide rates dropping as learners were in their own secure environment. We believe we will see learners in a better frame of mind when going back to a classroom environment, and face-to-face learning will bring a sense of normality.
Future challenges for the further education sector
The biggest challenges for further education recruitment will be to attract talent from industry into education, as well as recruiting and retaining maths and English specialists. However, the most in demand jobs and courses remain STEM-related, with lecturers in this area needing to be highly skilled, qualified specialists, able to deliver outstanding teaching, especially with the introduction of T Levels.
From April 2021, the government is also introducing a new promise to fund technical courses for adults, equivalent to A Levels, as part of its Lifetime Skills Guarantee. This renewed level of investment makes it an exciting time to be in the sector.
Salaries and benefits in further education
Institutions may find it difficult to offer the expected incremental salary increases at present, so the Association of Colleges and trade unions have recommended a 1% staff pay rise, contingent on government funding. In a REED survey covering all sectors in late 2020, we found that higher company pensions, performance bonuses, flexibility, health insurance, and remote working were the most desired benefits.
Colleges that face intense competition for specialist lecturers should consider value-added benefits, such as pensions, holidays, gym use, free parking and discounted childcare. Salaries should also be competitive, with colleges considering paying private sector pay rates for industry specialists.
The alternative is to draw in candidates new to teaching, fresh from the industry itself, and support them to gain a teaching qualification. Emphasising the benefits for moving into the sector is essential here, as industry sector salaries remain high.
For more information on what you could be earning, or the salaries you should be paying, download your free Reed Further Education 2021 Salary Guide now. The guide contains insight and salary data for the industry across the UK and will help you make informed decisions in the year ahead.