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Classroom skills crucial

College managers must keep in touch with the classroom if they are to be effective in their job, says Alan Jones, a curriculum co-ordinator at one of Britain's largest colleges.

A late-comer to FE - he joined Solihull College as a lecturer on Pounds 21,000 two years ago - the 37-year-old has a wealth of commercial experience to meet the demands in the hard-nosed world of incorporation.

But he has teaching experience too and insists that a balance of both is needed. Managing and developing courses is a demanding job, he says, but keeping in touch through classroom teaching helps ensure that his colleagues with a longer track record in FE accept him.

Now on Pounds 25,000 a year, he is communications and English co-ordinator, responsible for curriculum co-ordination for 3,000 students and 50 staff at the Birmingham college's satellite campus in Chelmsley Wood.

He had a varied early career before FE including teaching at a local school and working in an ice-cream business in France.

He read English at Kent University - taking six years out to travel and work his way around Europe. He then took a Masters degree in English at London University and worked in a variety of jobs including teaching English as a foreign language and part-time FE lecturing, before returning to Birmingham to manage a language training school which designed and ran courses tailored for a commercial market.

The company gave Mr Jones management training and experience working for clients including Rover and other large West Midlands industrial and commercial firms, but after five years he found himself drawn to FE.

"I had always liked FE and while at the language school I continued teaching evening classes at colleges.

"A large part of the attraction in going to Solihull was that I would be able to teach."

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