The dramatic changes to education delivery ushered in by the Covid-19 crisis have challenged FE professionals across the board. But that should not mean putting career ambitions on hold; there are many ways in which practitioners can give their careers a boost in this fast-changing climate. Whether you’re looking for a sideways move into a new field of teaching, a change in setting or hoping to move into management or a different part of the sector, here are six strategies to consider.
1. Set your sights on succession
If you’re keen on a career move, a great start is to discuss your ambitions with senior leaders at your existing provider. Toni Rhodes, vice-principal of quality at Barnsley College, has made it her mission to improve professional development opportunities for staff. “We work hard to provide each individual with the skills and resources that they need to take the next step,” she says. “It’s important to be forward-thinking in this regard, empowering employees early on, so they can succeed in their next role. By supporting our best talent in this way, they remain challenged and feel valued, which has a positive impact on staff retention and gives us a robust succession plan.”
A core part of this is SET membership, which she expects more teaching staff to take up this year. “Our corporate partnership with SET is aligned with our strategic vision of ‘Transforming Lives’ which supports our teachers to reach their full potential. So far, 130 have joined the community,” she adds.
Career progression opportunities available from SET can support teachers in non-school settings to acquire equivalent recognition as teachers in schools – for example, by acquiring Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) or Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status.
2. Prepare for T Levels
One of the biggest changes on the horizon for FE professionals in 2021 will be the start of T Level courses. While selected colleges offer a limited number of subjects already, a further seven will be available from September.
“The structure of courses will change, with a greater emphasis on the number of hours learners have outside the classroom,” says Andrew Dowell, head of professional status at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF). To prepare for this, key areas for skills development will be in relationship building, for helping learners to establish industry placements, and resilience. Dowell adds: “The Professional Development Platform, recently released by the ETF, has a great training needs analysis system that will help to identify areas to focus on.”
3. Boost your digital skills
2020 was undoubtedly a crash course in online learning as most FE professionals were forced to “go virtual”, and it’s likely there will be an increased need and appetite for blended learning in the longer term.
“The pandemic brought about the need for a widespread digital upskill across the education sector, therefore practitioners must continually develop their abilities on basic tools such as Google Docs and Google Slides, but also more complex learning tools and pedagogical approaches to enhance engagement and make learning more active as part of a blended learning model,” says Natasha Armitage-Evans, head of teaching, learning and assessment for Luminate Education Group.
“Enhancing digital learning skills needs to be a top priority for FE professionals. It’s vital for them to develop a strong understanding of their digital capabilities, knowledge and grasp of technology, to enhance learning both in the classroom and online.”
4. Know your Zoom from your Google
Consecutive lockdowns and the shift to virtual learning “brings with it a whole new skill-set that FE professionals need to rely on”, according to Paul Matthias, national director for recruiter Hays Education. “Confidence using technology and software such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom will be key.” If you’re seeking a new role in the current climate, leaders will want to know about your experience of these platforms, so aim to make this as broad as possible.
Dowell says a good place to start is the technology environment your prospective employer operates in. “Most settings are Microsoft or Google-based, or a blend of the two. Look at what those systems offer in terms of CPD,” he advises.
Both Microsoft and Google platforms have the option of becoming a certified educator, which could prove a point of difference when applying for a role (Barnsley College has 384 people qualified as Microsoft Innovative Educators, Rhodes says). The ETF Enhance Digital Teaching Platform also has some great CPD.
5. Personalise your CPD
“Personalised, ongoing continuing professional development is a key area that FE professionals should explore,” Armitage-Evans says. The move to increased remote learning means practitioners may be more able to fit in career-boosting learning around their work and fill in any development gaps through online courses.
A number of training companies offer courses for free, while recruiters such as Protocol and Engage Education have partnerships with learning providers. Georgia Price, teacher training lead at Engage Education, argues that it’s essential for FE professionals to seek out CPD that will be valuable for the next stage in their career. “Our partnership and development team can point you in the direction of CPD opportunities for everyone from trainees to senior leaders,” she says. The company has teamed up with course provider Creative Education to offer candidates free access to its library of training resources.
Areas for development could range from dealing with challenging behaviour to tips on managing a team or specialising in an area such as SEND. “Lots of webinars have been taking place recently in place of regular CPD courses you may attend,” says a spokesperson for Protocol Education. These are usually delivered via a live PowerPoint show with a host and are often recorded for access after. The Open University offers a number of free courses in subjects such as health and psychology and education and development.
Depending on commitments, it may be possible to gain experience in a related field, such as covering for a colleague or taking on an extra part-time role in a different part of the FE sector. With many providers overstretched, any offer of assistance may be well received and help you to show that you’re serious.
6. Brush up your CV
“A concise CV is essential,” Price advises. “Include lots of white space to make it easy to read. List your achievements in each of your previous roles and any relevant volunteering. Your transferable skills will be vital when making applications. It can help to ask a close friend or family member to list what they think your skills are and match them to specific experiences in your CV.”
Tailoring your CV is crucial. “Providers can spot a generic document that has been sent to a large handful of people and will likely discount it even if it represents a strong candidate,” Matthias warns. He recommends a structure of a brief opening statement, work experience, education history and hobbies, but there are other ways to stand out.
“Teachers have had to deal with huge changes to their profession as a result of the pandemic, so highlighting an ability to be flexible and adaptable will spark an employer’s interest,” he says. “A quality that education employers like to see is resourcefulness. Even if it’s in a non-teaching role, highlighting your ability to be creative with your materials will get you noticed.” Lastly, don’t be afraid to include personal interests as this can provide a rounder sense of who you are.
There are already chronic skill shortages in the UK in areas such as engineering, construction, health and social care. STEM and higher-technical skills are in demand as employers struggle to recruit technicians and professionals to meet the challenges of building the green economy and addressing the health and care needs of an ageing population.
At the same time, many people will find themselves having to upskill and retrain as a result of Covid-19. They may have technical skills that would make them suited to a career in FE technical teaching.
Boosting technical skills is dependent on high-quality technical teaching and learning experiences, with teachers and employers working together to set standards and deliver education and training that is fit for purpose. The following links contain more details about the ETF’s Technical Teacher Recruitment programmes.
For technical teachers delivering T Levels or apprenticeships, a range of professional development courses is available online via the ETF’s FutureLearn platform. Find out more by accessing the ETF’s new platform and registering for the TLPD bulletin: