AMBITIOUS government plans to expand further education are under threat because of the disparity in pay between colleges and industry, unions and employers warn today.
For the Government to meet its FE expansion targets the number of full and part-time lecturers must rise by 18 per cent, from 200,000 to 236,000, by 2010.
But employment analysts predict 100,000 lecturers, half the current workforce, will retire or change profession by then.
This means 136,000 new lecturers must be recruited, an average of 17,000 every year, to meet its 2010 targets.
Few in colleges believe that this can be achieved unless the Government comes up with extra money and radical initiatives to stem the exodus of lecturers to industry and attract fresh applicants.
Natfhe general secretary Paul Mackney said colleges were constantly losing lecturers to industry through a "revolving door".
He said: "Meeting this government target will be very difficult unless we get more money to raise pay.
"We have a revolving door where many young lecturers complete their university education, often going on to a postgraduate qualification, then come and spend a year lecturing and think 'what am I doing here?'
"To put it bluntly, they feel insulted by the pay and conditions and they go off and do something else better paid and less stressful.
"People used to come into FE from industry for various reasons. Some just got the teaching bug, others accepted lower pay because lecturing gave them a secure pension and better holidays, others just preferred training to the repetition of doing their trade.
"But the package is nowhere near as attractive as it used to be, and there is very little to lure people from industry. We need to get the workload down ... and a reasonable remuneration package. Then lecturing would be seen as a very rewarding career."
Mr Mackney said, even if the Government could recruit 17,000 lecturers a year, it would have to expand training to cope. He said: "We would need substantial investment in the training infrastructure. Even if they could get that number of new lecturers in every year, the training system would crumble."
Ivor Jones, director of employment policy at the Association of Colleges, said: "It will be a real fight to recruit the number of lecturers needed to meet the target, and it will be difficult to lure them from industry.
"Money alone is not the answer to our recruitment problems. We need to start thinking laterally about attracting people from industry.
"Colleges are never going to be able to pay their plumbing lecturers anything like the kind of money that plumbers get.
"So while a pay increase for lecturers would help ease the situation, we need to think of other ways of getting new people in.
"Where there is a massive demand for courses, why not give students a grant and tie them into their vocational subject so they have to teach for a while before going off into industry?"
PAY PACKETS COMPARED
Average salaries for: FE lecturer pound;14-25K Plumber pound;25-40k
Software engineer pound;18-60k
Tourism officer pound;16-30k
Sales executive pound;12-60k
Sources: Natfhe; Institute of Plumbing; TTE Management amp; Technical Training; Law Society; 'Prospects' graduate careers guide