It is a great pity that it took the economic downturn to raise the public profile and awareness of vocational education and training. For years, the further education and skills sector has been known as “the neglected middle child” of education policy – somewhere between schools and universities but with the media and political profile of neither.
The same can therefore be argued for those in teaching and training roles, who work tirelessly with some of the most vulnerable in our society and making a huge difference to people’s lives and the economy. From the community education tutor teaching basic literacy and numeracy to adults in a night-class in a church hall, to the engineering assessor out in the workplace ensuring that apprentices are meeting the high standards needed for their qualifications, FE teachers and trainers are diverse in their expertise and indispensable to their communities.
As the skills of our current and future workforce become a more prevalent narrative in the national debate on regaining a prosperous economy, the spotlight is finally trained on our further education and skills system.
The Institute for Learning (IfL) is the independent professional body for teaching and training practitioners in the further education and skills sector with more than 75,000 members. IfL’s focus is on ensuring that professional teachers and trainers have the freedom and opportunities to be creative, innovative and effective educators; dual professionals who maintain expertise in their specialist industries and in their teaching and training practice to deliver outstanding outcomes for learners.
Party conferences give us an opportunity to network with a much wider audience to raise the profile of our members’ work and build on the benefits and contribution made by professional bodies for individuals, the public good and the economy. More and more employers are looking at how they can use the skills system to improve productivity and safeguard their business for the future. We intend to use the insights and experiences of further education teachers and trainers, whose occupational expertise spans every sector of our economy, to inform and provoke debate and add a valuable dimension to discussion on how we can build a once again prosperous economy.
Among the challenges facing business and the economy is how to deal with the challenges facing individuals, young people in particular. IfL looks forward to engaging with organisations across the private, public and third sectors to learn more about how we can support teaching and training practitioners involved in programmes helping unemployed young people into education, employment and training.