Quick guide: Working in Further Education

Whether you’re new to Post-14 education or fancy a change in direction, this multi-faceted sector offers a vast range of opportunities to explore. In this short guide, we’ll review some of the roles available, and the different working environments to choose from within the sector.


What different roles are there?

Whilst educators remain the most prevalent role in Post-14 education, the sector also relies on many different groups to enable a culture that encourages learning and potential, such as non-teaching staff, support roles and leaders and managers.


Direct teaching roles

As a teacher, you might be delivering lectures or classroom lessons, tutoring small groups, offering practical workplace training, or providing one-to-one mentoring – many teaching roles involve a combination of these.

  • The responsibilities of a teacher are varied and usually include; planning and preparing lessons, keeping up-to-date with college policies, teaching across a range of qualification types and levels, and monitoring and assessing work. You could be teaching a subject in a range of areas, including: vocational training, academic teaching, basic skills or recreational courses.

Non-teaching roles

There are also non-teaching roles throughout the sector for people with an education background. For example; designing programmes, writing course materials, providing consultancy services, or acting as examiners, assessors, verifiers or inspectors.


Support roles

Alongside teaching staff, the sector needs support staff in a variety of education-related positions. You could be a librarian, careers advisor, lab technician or work on an IT help-desk. There are also opportunities to provide learner support to learners with personal difficulties, including learning difficulties and disabilities, language issues, or financial hardship.

In addition, the post-14 education sector employs staff in HR, finance, marketing, IT, maintenance and administration roles, all helping to build an environment and culture that encourages and develops learning and potential. These positions may also have a learner-facing element through organisation events, student voice activities or apprenticeships.


Leadership and management roles

At the top of the management structure in colleges and training companies are principals, chief executives and managing directors. Lower down the leadership ladder you might find assistant principals, heads of department, curriculum managers and team leaders, as well as directors in areas outside teaching, such as marketing or finance. Colleges also need volunteer governors to provide strategic direction and scrutinise performance.


Where can I work?

The sector is made up many different types of institutions and providers, each with its own unique environment. From working with adult learners, to supporting young offenders, there is a rich variety of opportunities to choose from within Post-14 education.


Further Education colleges

Further Education (FE) colleges are the biggest employers in the sector and provide training and education for young people and adults. FE colleges also include:

  • Sixth form colleges
  • Land-based colleges specialising in agriculture and horticulture
  • Art, design and performing arts
  • Specialist designated colleges and arts colleges

According to the Association of Colleges (AoC), there are 273 colleges in England and 120,000 full-time staff, of which 60,000 are teaching staff.


Adult and community learning providers

Community learning offers people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities the chance to gain new skills or pursue an interest in an accessible and affordable way. Courses are often run in local community centres, schools, colleges, libraries and community and voluntary sector organisations.

Roles are varied, but you may be interested in working as an adult education tutor, delivering a range of community learning classes and accredited qualifications, a tutor supporting learners with complex needs, or a managerial role as a community learning manager - providing strategic direction and overseeing the commissioning of adult skills and community learning programmes.


Work-based learning

Work-based Learning (WBL) offers learners real-life work experiences to broaden their skills and knowledge and improve their chances of employment. This could be done through apprenticeships, internships, job shadowing or informal learning on the job. A number of people who work in the WBL sector undertake manager, assessor and quality assurance roles to ensure the standards of the vocational qualifications being delivered.


Offender learning and skills service

There are many different routes and career options when it comes to working in offender learning for new and existing teachers, along with those who are direct from industry. As a teacher, trainer or lecturer working in a prison or young offender organisation you may find yourself progressing to the role of coordinator, team leader or advanced practitioner.


Independent learning providers (ILPs)

ILPs deliver vocational and work-based training of all kinds, from one-day courses to apprenticeships and traineeships. ILPs are made up of private companies, charitable organisations or professional associations. They commonly provide practical training in areas such as health and social care, business, law, engineering, manufacturing and retail. Training organisations are responsible for providing a range of support to employers and may employ freelance trainers or consultants as well as in-house trainers.


Further information

Visit the FE Advice website to find out more information about working in the FE sector.

Visit the Excellence Gateway website for more information about working in offender learning.

Visit the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) website for more information on courses, events, sector news and recruitment.