A Teach First-style programme should be developed for colleges to encourage industry experts to spend time in the classroom passing on their skills, a report on vocational education recommends.
The Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning proposed the programme, dubbing it "Teach Too", in its report, published this week. The idea was included in a series of recommendations aimed at increasing the involvement of employers in vocational education.
While Teach First encourages graduates at the beginning of their careers to spend at least two years in teaching, Teach Too would allow people with industry expertise to teach their occupation for a few hours a week.
The commission, which consists of 19 representatives from colleges, training providers and industry, proposes that the FE Guild carries out a feasibility study and runs a pilot programme to test the idea. It said that several organisations had already expressed an interest in the plan, and FE minister Matthew Hancock said he was "particularly excited" about Teach Too.
"Building on Teach First, Teach Too is about people from industry and the world of work coming into colleges and training providers," said Frank McLoughlin, chair of the commission. "It's an idea that came from small employers who said: we don't necessarily have much cash but we can potentially give you some time, coming in and sharing our experience."
Mr McLoughlin said the commission's research had found that the most effective vocational provision featured a strong contribution from employers. "The best provision we have seen has been collaborative in nature, based on what we are calling the two-way street between providers and employers," he said.
The report said: "In the best examples the commission has seen, employers are not just customers of vocational teaching and learning, but are engaged at every level in helping to create and deliver excellent vocational programmes."
Encouraging industry experts to spend time teaching was one way of involving employers in curriculum development and design. The commission also called for every curriculum area in a college to have an employer sponsor to ensure their industry relevance.
But colleges questioned whether employers were willing to play a greater role in vocational education.
Joy Mercer, director of education policy at the Association of Colleges, said: "At the heart of this report is the dilemma of how employers can become more involved in skill delivery when many are too small to have this capacity and there are few incentives or drivers from government."
The commission also recommended the creation of a national centre for vocational education and training to research vocational pedagogy and experiment with new ideas for teaching. It should bring together colleges and training providers, employers, the FE Guild and university research experts.
Such a centre would have to be funded through existing budgets. "We are doing this in the sure knowledge that no one is going to come to us with a pot of money," Mr McLoughlin said. Countries with the most successful vocational education systems had similar centres, he added. "In the future, we won't go overseas to learn about best practice, we will be having people come over here."
The commission also called for vocational qualifications to be redesigned, arguing that currently they are too prescriptive. Instead, they should have a nationally specified core, with locally tailored elements designed to meet the needs of employers.
The report comes as FE colleges have faced heavy criticism from Ofsted over the standard of teaching, with two successive annual reports noting that no college had been rated "outstanding" for teaching and learning.
Speaking at the launch of the commission's report, Mr Hancock praised the success of Walsall College, which last week was the first college to earn the "outstanding" grade under the new inspection framework (see below).
But he said that colleges needed to listen to Ofsted's criticisms. "When the message comes out from Ofsted that poor provision is damaging people's life chances, I think it's very important that we don't shoot the messenger and that we rise to the challenge," Mr Hancock said.
He praised the commission's work as an example of the FE sector's taking responsibility for its own improvement.
Among the criticisms that came from Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw is that 80 per cent of young people who leave school without five good GCSEs, including in English and maths, still have not reached that benchmark after two years in college.
The commission acknowledged that this was a "very serious problem" and called for "cadres" of specialist, intensively trained English and maths tutors to be based in every college and available as a resource for all vocational education providers in their area.
A `TWO-WAY STREET'
The report's recommendations:
Introduce Teach Too, allowing industry experts to teach in FE, and revise the training of vocational teachers.
Adopt the model of a "two-way street" of collaboration between employers and training providers.
Develop qualifications with a national core and elements tailored to the local economy.
Create employer panels to "sponsor" curriculum areas in each training provider.
Establish a national centre for vocational education and training.
Develop new uses for technology, including digital simulations.
Create a cadre of specialist English and maths tutors in every college.
Photo credit: Corbis