COLLEGES are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit lecturers, with poor salary levels seen as a key factor, according to FENTO, the national training organisation for the sector.
There is a limited choice of applicants, candidates lack relevant teaching experience, and they are less well-qualified than previously. The best teachers in sixth-form colleges are moving to schools where salaries are higher.
FENTO conducted a survey based on comments made by 20 principals in focus groups, plus telephone canvassing in Northern Ireland.
Colleges are finding it especially hard to recruit IT staff and accountants. The main reason is competition in the labour market. Also there was a "strong suggestion" that most expert staff in many technical fields were better paid outside FE.
In information communication technologies there was "grave cause for concern."
There were also problems in recruiting managers, with applicants lacking in practical experience. Lecturers did not find management posts attractive. "It is widely accepted that many curriculm managers do not want promotion," says the report.
Lecturers would need to be "unlocked from their old-fashioned ways" by themselves learning through ICT. "By the year 2015 we could be seeing learners attending college only once-a- month, for face to face tutorials. This could be linked to a change from contact hour to learner caseload contracts for lecturers and other staff."
The report is the first phase of FENTO's "Skills Foresight" project. In the second stage, beginning later this term, colleges will be asked for detailed statistics, to determine the extent to which recruitment problems are symptomatic of serious skill shortages.
"We want to get colleges fully on board so that we have firm statistical evidence to show to the Government and other stakeholders in the sector," said Pauline Lovell, FENTO's director of business development.
"One of the things the sector has lacked is a coherent approach which can prevent shortages of staff in certain areas. We need to look at career progression and, above all, raise professionalism."