Tradespeople told to get qualified or quit teaching as the heat is turned up on workforce standards
Lecturers in vital subjects such as construction are being forced out of their jobs by the pressure to get qualified, the head of Britain's biggest supply agency has said.
Further education faces a recruitment crisis unless a new type of teaching qualification is developed, said Phil Harrison, chief executive of Protocol National. Any move to relax the qualification regime is likely to be resisted by Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK), the body in charge of FE workforce development.
Mr Harrison said: "We need some way of recognising that a lot of lecturers are in employment and doing teaching on top of that.
"Lecturers say, 'I have not got the time to get qualified. I have a full-time job and I am teaching in my spare time.' There is a challenge about how we find time for people. And these are skilled tradesmen, but they say there is not a qualification which uses their skills - it's academic."
He added:"They do what they do because they have got talent in a different area. Even if qualified teaching, learning and skills status (QTLS) put off five or 10 per cent of people, it would be too much."
The Government set targets for 90 per cent of full-time lecturers and 60 per cent of part-timers to hold full teaching qualifications by September this year. By 2010, all lecturers will need to complete the training. Last year's figures, the latest available, show the target had been met for part-time staff and 80 per cent of full-time staff were qualified. The number of enrolments this year should ensure the target is met, according to LLUK.
It says an extra 135,000 lecturers will be needed by 2010 - nearly half of the current workforce - because of retirements and growth. Lecturers in manual trades should be given the chance to do NVQ-style training, Mr Harrison suggested. Rather than an academic course, their teaching could be assessed on the job. "If there's a will, it should not be impossible within 12 months to start a qualification," he said.
Figures from the Association of Colleges (AoC) show that, in some subjects, colleges struggle to recruit trained lecturers. Vacancy rates are more than 20 per cent in basic skills, and more than 14 per cent in construction. Sue Dutton, deputy chief executive of the AoC, said: "There would be a case in a limited number of occupational areas to find different ways of accrediting their learning. But that should not undermine the general principle that qualifications need to be fit for purpose for all."
Monica Deasey, director of standards, qualifications and research at LLUK, rejected the idea of only assessing lecturers at work.
She said the new modular or "climbing frame" approach to lecturer training would make it easier for workers to switch to a lecturing career. Rather than follow the traditional one-year course, they could take modules from level 3 (A-level equivalent) and begin basic instructional roles. If they progress to higher modules, they could gain more responsibility.
Ms Deasey said: "If you are thinking of going into teaching and the only thing putting you off is learning, then you should think about doing something else."