As the prospect of a new academic year stretching out ahead becomes a working reality for FE sector, Jayne Stigger considers what might be to come for teaching and lecturing staff in 2015/16.

FE & Skills providers are being sorely tested; no one doubts that but those who endlessly shout, tweet and holler the doom and gloom scenarios are missing the point.

Teaching/lecturing is challenging but staff need to seize this opportunity to develop both their learners and their own skills. Delivery using #FELTAG principles, working with local employers, giving learners the opportunity to develop maths and English knowledge in their subject specialism isn’t some new-fangled plan to make life more difficult for teaching staff; it is the future and we should already be doing it.

We should be building learner show-reels to demonstrate their competence to employers, crowdfunding opportunities for them like @hearnesque and #Scrawlmovie and developing our own skills if we don’t know how.

Yes, finances are getting tighter, classes may get bigger, courses may vanish from the curriculum, we may teach other things, some providers will merge and job losses may seem inevitable but they aren’t. This is the opportunity that FE staff should be taking advantage of; to really demonstrate just how valuable we are to the learners, our industries, country and its place in the wider, global market. It is the reactionary culture that needs to evolve.

The relentless push for more apprentices, better vocational education and training with maths and English for all, isn’t going away and the sooner the ‘traditional’ FE get on board with the new thinking, the smoother the transition will be.

UTCs, independent learning providers and National Colleges are stepping out of the wings and learning our lines. If FE wishes to continue to deliver all the courses it currently enjoys, then teaching staff must play our part in the development of even more effective vocational learning opportunities by adapting to the new rules and proving our worth.

We are ‘not like the brazen giant of Greek fame’, we are different. We are staff who are talented in our vocational specialisms, we take those who wish to learn a trade and develop their talent. We also take ‘your tired, your poor, your huddled masses’, and it is essential that we do, but to continue to provide that care and support, we must generate our own income streams, which requires multi-talented staff.

Teaching staff can do much to support this by changing the culture of a provider, with enthusiasm and positivity. If we constantly talk our positions down, why should anyone else value us?

The coming year will be the watershed for FE Staff; those who stand up and evolve into forward thinking, employment-focused delivery partners, those who facilitate skills development in all our learners will thrive

The coming year will be the watershed for FE Staff; those who stand up and evolve into forward thinking, employment focused delivery partners, those who facilitate skills development in all our learners will thrive. If they help develop independent income and secure partnerships, then they can still deliver A-levels, Access, Esol etc. I hope they do, for they are as needed by those the government doesn’t seem to see as clearly, as the favoured ones.

Governments aren’t always right and their hearing is very selective. This may be unfair, wrongheaded, short-sighted and ultimately destructive but it is the hand we are dealt. We should be working with employers, from choosing the units we deliver in a BTec, to relevant careers advice and great learner IAG, useful, logged work experience and staff training opportunities.

I urge all in FE to take the current political climate with a large pinch of salt. Governments come and go, their impact, for all their posturing, is only as great as we allow it to be. The time for standing on the edge, shouting at the water and urging it to recede is long past and those who do will drown.

The smart ones will develop their own training opportunities, build rafts, link together, use social media alongside local knowledge and industry to partner their ambitions and evolve so they can continue to offer courses to everyone who needs them, not just those who are caught in the current spotlight.