Agreeing to chair a group setting up yet another representative body for FE is probably a career-limiting move unless there is a very good reason for another one. So I am pleased to say I think there is indeed a great need for a new body to take a leadership role in FE and I am excited by the unique opportunity we have to enhance the status and reputation of the sector.
The challenge we face in FE is huge because the world is changing rapidly around us and we need to serve young people and adults who are grappling with changes in society, work and technology which can sometimes seem bewildering.
We need to develop the sector to be fleet of foot, to keep up with changes in work, to use technology to deliver learning which equips people with the skills they will need to keep learning and be resilient to the changes around them.
The best in the sector do this day in day out, so we know that FE can do it, but we need stronger leadership and focus from employers, practitioners and their representative bodies to set standards which everyone aspires to.
The new guild provides us with the chance for the sector to come together just as the government and its agencies have retreated.
It also represents a moment of truth for the FE sector.
Can the sector take responsibility, collectively for its own future when part of its very strength is the diversity of organisations and learners in it?
I believe the diversity of learning, learners and organisations in FE should be celebrated as a key strength and that a new guild can play a leadership role across it.
A clear focus on delivering and supporting great learning to all adults across their lives will bind and unite the diverse voices, interests and organisations.
What we need is for employers and practitioners and the organisations which represent them to come together to make this work on behalf of the adults and young people who are served by the sector.
I am certain we can develop a new organisation which advances professionalism, improves leadership and governance and helps to deliver even better learning opportunities across England.
It will be this clarity of purpose which we will use to bring people together and keep us all focussed.
I believe the diversity of learning, learners and organisations in FE should be celebrated”
I was invited to chair the steering group, I believe, for two reasons. Firstly, because of the unique place and purpose of National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) in advocating more, different and better learning for all adults.
This means we are not representing any particular interest group, other than learners.
Secondly, I hope that I have a reputation for getting things done and there is a lot of work to be done in order to build consensus about the purpose, role, structure and governance of the FE Guild and I hope to be one of the people driving that forward over the coming months.
We are planning now for an intense period of engagement with employers and practitioners and representative bodies to debate and discuss what the FE Guild should focus on, how it should be set-up and what the governance arrangements will look like.
That debate and discussion needs to be thorough and professional and I would urge everyone with any interest in FE to get involved.
We cannot afford for people with positive ideas and contributions not to come forward in the new year to enter the debate. Part of my role as chair of the steering group is to support an inclusive process in which all views are heard.
Our aim is to have the guild up-and-running in mid-2013, starting to develop its role and its activities and having an impact in the next academic year.
In order to achieve that we will work hard, consult properly, listen well and be decisive because all of us came into FE to support and deliver great learning and the guild can take a critical leadership role in achieving that.
David Hughes, NIACE chief executive and chair of the FE Guild steering group