Better training and pay would cut staff recruitment problems immediately by at least one-fifth, says a report from the Further Education National Training Organisation.
The first-ever national targets to help colleges recruit staff have been published by FENTO. They underline the urgency with which colleges must tackle the pay crisis, which has left 60 per cent struggling to recruit staff in some areas.
The Government has set aside pound;280 million to fund half the cost of staff training over the next three years. The equally urgent need to improve pay was underlined by a FENTO report in January. This showed that new recruits were snubbing FE for schools and industry which paid up to pound;5,000 a year more.
Ambitious targets spelled out in the organisation's first four-year workforce development plan call for all staff to be signed-up for professional development courses within three years. This would lead to a 20 per cent annual fall in unqualified staff, says FENTO, which is pushing for mandatory qualified FE teacher status.
The plan aims to cut by half the skills gaps among lecturers and managers by 2004. But, the report says, any improvements must be linked to more attractive pay rates.
The earlier report leading to the development pln had highlighted the urgency. Serious shortages were identified in subjects including IT (60 per cent), construction (45 per cent) and accounts (37 per cent).
All NTOs are obliged to produce workforce development plans for their sector. The FENTO plans acknowledge attempts to tackle shortages, including the introduction of new occupational standards and a new framework for teaching qualifications.
But they also point to the need to tackle problems among managers and support staff. A 25 per cent annual increase in qualifications held by managers is needed. And a new training programme must be available to all support staff by September 2002, with at least one in five gaining professional qualifications by 2004.
Other targets set out in the plans include a 15 per cent annual growth in staff trained specifically to use information learning technology. Also an extensive data collection programme is called for to monitor staff development needs.
Ambitious though the plans are, Geoff Terry, FENTO chief executive, reckons even tougher targets may prove necessary. "The targets are ambitious and set down a benchmark for performance review at a later stage. It will be interesting to see whether they turn out to be ambitious enough."