Dr Sam Parrett CBE, Group Principal and CEO, London & South East Education Group

Over the past few weeks, it has been hard to escape the news about job vacancies reaching record highs across many industries and the tirade of policy experts keen to give their opinion on the matter.   

Interestingly, it appears that no one can make up their mind on what this means. Is it the start of a new high-wage economy with a booming labour market or the start of something much worse – with gaping skills shortages leading to broken supply chains, resulting in empty shelves and sending the cost of living spiralling upwards?   

We’re all aware of the shortages making the headlines – including HGV drivers, fruit pickers and farm workers – with calls for ‘fast track training’ and ‘visa reform’. But such solutions will only fix part of the problem; we need to remember that these shortages have been plaguing education providers for years.    

It’s very easy for commentators and politicians to say ‘just train the domestic workforce’ – but it must be recognised that to do this, we need to find the experts to do the training.  

Colleges, including my own, have struggled for some time to recruit high quality, vocational lecturers. In the current climate of skilled workers being in such short supply, there is little motivation for many of these experts to move into teaching, when the financial rewards of working in their industry are so much greater.  

Of course, those of us working in education know and understand that the rewards of teaching are wide-ranging, if not economically superior. But with teaching salaries being frozen in real terms and those of FE staff already being considerably lower than their school counterparts – we are reaching a precipice of potential disaster that is becoming critical.   

Government and businesses need to develop a longer-term vision that recognises the risks of not having enough or indeed, the right, staff to train the future workforce.  

Employers across most industries are struggling to recruit the staff and skills they need, from hospitality and healthcare to digital and construction. It is inevitable that businesses will struggle to remain profitable if they can’t access the skilled workforce needed to deliver services – and this absolutely includes FE Colleges. 

The phrase ‘Levelling Up’ has been high on the Party Conference agendas over the last few weeks. Further Education represents this concept completely – giving people of all ages and from all backgrounds the opportunity to improve their life chances. So, if any Government is genuinely serious about this proposal, surely all FE staff would be top of the list? Without the dual professional, our teachers and mentors to deliver skills and knowledge, the whole concept of social mobility and aspiration will come to a grinding halt.  

Skills gaps within the education sector is a serious problem as it will inevitably lead to a reduction in our capacity to train people. If we can’t train people, skills gaps across other industries will continue to grow rapidly.  

There is no possible argument that can hold against the benefits of investing in education. Every political party knows the importance of this when developing a manifesto. Higher levels of education on average lead to lower employment rates along with higher wages. One extensive study from the University of Illinois* estimated that the difference in skills levels among OECD countries can fully explain 55% of differences in economic growth since 1960. This is stark, irrefutable evidence that education is crucial to driving a successful and sustainable economy.  

On top of this, skills gaps cost money; around £6.6bn a year according to the Open University Business Barometer 2020, with 56% of UK organisations experiencing labour shortages. Our own sector (AoC report) has reported that the lack of funding for the skilled Level 3 courses could lead to an additional £3.3bn in lost output between 2019 and 2024.  

There is no escaping the fact that training, re-skilling and changing the economy’s shape to reach the holy grail of a ‘high skill high wage’ workforce requires a skilled education workforce to deliver the training.   

For FE, this means the educator who holds a dual identity as a professional with a specialism as well as being a professional teacher. Staff who bring expertise from their former and current employment practice and combine it with their pedagogic expertise within an FE classroom setting is unique to FE. It is also becoming increasingly more important as the vocational qualification reform and introduction of T levels advances. 

Yet we find ourselves in a position where we have reduced immigration (at least in the short term) and industries are struggling to fill hundreds and thousands of vacancies to keep supply chains moving. This is impacting on wages, with skilled workers finding many more lucrative roles within industry than they ever could in education – yet without our dual professionals in FE, the skills gaps will only widen.  

To tackle this, greater recognition of the vital skills and talents of our vocational teachers is needed. Offering maths and science teachers an additional £3000 for their commitment is undoubtedly well deserved, but where are the incentives for the builders, engineers, plumbers and many other skilled professionals to move into teaching?  

And it’s not just about quantity. We need inspiring teachers who can ensure their skills remain relevant and at pace with the rapidly changing world of technology. To achieve this high standard and commitment, more focus is needed on the concept of dual professionalism – giving genuine status to individuals who are both industry experts and teaching professionals.   

The ETF’s Taking Teaching Further programme aims to attract industry professionals with expert technical skills and knowledge into FE. However, it is getting much harder to find new recruits who are willing to undertake the teaching and mentoring required - with pay being a significant barrier. Employer partnerships can help, but ultimately we are all facing the same issues. 

This is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed. The FE and skills sector needs to be recognised as a priority skills shortage area, with greater resource made available to help us attract the talent we need right now. 

Dr Sam Parrett CBE, Group Principal and CEO, London & South East Education Group

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page