A NEW initiative for trades people considering a career in further education could set the standard for improving the number and quality of vocational lecturers.
Many people with industry experience say they are put off passing on their knowledge to students because they don't want to undertake traditional teacher training, which is aimed at those with academic rather than practical backgrounds.
Lewisham College, in south-east London, is offering a new-style certificate in education for those coming in from industry to teach practical skills.
The part-time course takes two years and will meet requirements set by Lifelong Learning UK, the organisation responsible for professional standards in colleges.
The programme is being developed with London South Bank University and is funded by the Edge Foundation, an educational charity.
The foundation says existing education qualification courses have too much theory that is not relevant to vocational subjects. "We want to build on the strengths that these new teachers bring to the profession," said a spokesman.
Lewisham College's vice principal, Tim Potter, says existing teacher training is putting many talented and experienced people off coming into FE.
He said: "Our key constraint is teaching staff: we can't get them. And if we do attract them, we say to them: `By the way, you have to do a certificate in education, studying for two years on a course which revolves around learning the theory of education and writing essays about it.' "
The new qualification will be taught and assessed largely in the workplace.
There will be support from teachers with advanced practitioner status, as well as mentors from industry who have expertise in the trainee's specialism.
The college has also developed introductory courses for people in industry who want a taste of what to expect if they go into teaching.
Graham de Smidt, the college's acting head of teacher training, said: "A lot of people get appointed in September and they're in the classroom within two weeks. What they need are some tools to walk into that classroom with and know what they need to do, so they don't suffer from what I call `the fear'."
After more than 30 years working as a joiner, John Tait, 54, has joined one of the college's part-time courses to gain a certificate in education. "I wanted to put something back into the building industry," he says.
He started his training with a nine-hour intensive introductory course.
Dee Lewis, a trainee who joined the college from the retail industry, said:
"The course left me with an appetite for best practice."
Lewisham College also plans to offer teaching internships to vocational specialists who are considering training as a teacher.
It hopes the new courses will help to ease staff shortages in subjects such as health and care, beauty and construction.