FE recruitment hasn’t changed for 20 years. This year it must

Responding to ongoing challenges will require providers to adapt – and recruiters can and should be enablers in that process

Responding to ongoing challenges will require providers to adapt – and recruiters can and should be enablers in that process

14 Feb 2024, 5:00

Anyone involved in recruitment across further education must face up to the challenges that lie ahead. Here are my predictions for what those trends and challenges might look like in 2024, and how to best navigate them.

Developing the workforce

According to the latest government data, 205,200 people work in FE, including 81,400 teaching staff and 7,100 leadership staff. Last year, almost 6 per cent of teaching positions and 3 per cent of management roles went unfilled.

To address this issue, it’s vital to develop recruitment that takes the candidate journey into account. This will not only ensure more effective recruitment, but will help the right people to find their way into the right roles. This in turn will also improve retention.

To that end, recruitment firms can be vital partners rather than mere suppliers. It’s important to get people quickly into roles to fill gaps. However, the most effective way to ensure a strong and reliable workforce is to strike a balance between sessional and permanent contracts. This helps to secure engaged and well-suited staff who can meet an institution’s needs for the long term.

Closing the revolving door

At present, recruiters provide a broadly one-dimensional service which does not attend to the full spectrum of the sector’s needs. This has helped contribute to a culture whereby candidates often don’t stay in post very long.

To combat this revolving door, it’s important that recruiters understand the specific needs of the business they’re supporting from top to bottom. This will allow them to create a personalised and caring candidate journey that will in turn reduce the chance that the door keeps revolving.

The other key factor here is reducing the number of basic mistakes that plague education recruitment. These include ensuring candidates have the right qualifications and checks for the role and get paid the right amount at the right time. Another common error is to simply wave goodbye to candidates once they’re placed. This can mean that people don’t feel valued and invariably head for the door.

Rise to the skills challenge

In 2024, the best candidates aren’t simply the best qualified, but those who can best keep pace with changing skills needs. This doesn’t just apply to education, but in any sector young people are aspiring to work in.

In many industries, younger people struggle to get hired because they lack the length of experience employers demand. Further education can’t afford to be such an industry and stands to gain a competitive edge by embracing early-career hires. Added benefits include the opportunity to develop and mould your workforce. Young candidates can also deliver energy and new ideas, especially in the areas of curriculum, data management and marketing.

With projections indicating that by 2025 Gen Z will make up roughly 30 per cent of the workforce, embracing the new generation is vital.

AI for a more human experience

Education recruitment is first and foremost a people business, but technology now has a big role to play. Smart chatbots can offer more efficient and effective engagement, and AI and machine learning have the potential to save time and cut down on tedious tasks. In this way, embracing AI could in fact allow more resources to be committed to running a personalised and engaging service.

Wellbeing as standard

In the modern workplace, potential recruits are far more focused on their wellbeing than ever before. Of course, employers have a huge responsibility to ensure high employee satisfaction, but recruitment firms have a big part to play too.

That starts with aiming to place the right person in the right job, so I often advise to avoid recruiters who treat the process as a game of numbers.

But the most important factor is to be proactive rather than reactive in meeting employees’ needs. Today’s workforce is increasingly on the look-out for flexibility, and while that isn’t always easy to deliver in education, your recruitment partner is the best port of call to help solve the issue.

The bottom line

Unfortunately, cutting costs will remain a priority this year for many in the sector. The key here is to remember that investing resources might cost more in the short term, but can save much more in the long term.

More from this theme


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Fraser Whieldon

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One comment

  1. Steve Hewitt

    Fully agree with the thoughts on developing inexperienced people, we are, after all, meant to be good at training people! Significantly more worried about AI in recruitment. If it’s used to sift then any employer would have to be certain that the system used doesn’t contain any in-built biases (and, surprise! They all do!) and isn’t just searching for a bunch of keywords more likely to appear in applications from certain groups (ie white, male, middle class)…