At Forth Valley College, we have always strived to deliver the very best for our learners. In order to do this, we need to continually evolve to meet their changing needs and those of their future employers and our communities.
We have a clear vision for 2030 and in order to achieve this, we needed to ensure that our structure, curriculum and operational flexibility was fit-for-purpose. With this in mind, we embarked on our Futures Programme last November – with plans for a three-phased approach that will enable us to reform, reshape and rebuild our current delivery model with our strategy and purpose in mind.
The first phase in this approach was a reform of our teaching and administration functions along with a review of our budgeting allocations, and a joint consultation was launched mid-February.
The union's position: 'Vocational areas can't be hived off to instructors'
Our people are one of our greatest assets, and from the beginning of this process, we have always aimed to retain as many staff as possible.
I was, therefore, pleased when we were able to confirm that all posts at risk have either been successful in their application for the voluntary severance scheme or will be offered either a lecturer post or the new instructor assessor post with a conserved salary for four years.
We are fully committed to ensuring that all those at risk secure a role within the organisation and we are confident that there will be no one without the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to successfully undertake the new role we are introducing.
'Enhancing vocational learning at college'
There have been questions around why we are introducing this new role and the reason is to ensure that we develop a workforce for the future.
We have a strong focus on vocational learning and training and this new post will enhance this. A significant proportion of vocational qualifications in Scotland are currently delivered in the workplace by highly skilled competent industry professionals and qualified assessors. These are not lecturers but trained industry professionals, with the correct industry qualifications, who ensure learners achieve the correct levels of competency, skills and knowledge transfer required to meet the assessment criteria for vocational qualifications.
This new post will help us to align with this delivery model of industry for our in-college vocational curriculum and for vocational elements contained within higher national qualifications. It will combine the roles of the qualified competent industry professional and the assessor to deliver the best possible vocational learning experiences for our students.
As part of our robust recruitment processes, the qualifications, experience and skills required for the new role have been carefully considered. Training will be offered to those who do not have the relevant assessor/verifier qualifications in line with our current procedures and we will do all we can to support them in their new role.
The expertise and professional standards of our lecturing staff is not in question. However, it is the combined professionalism and dedication of colleagues in a variety of roles that will continue to drive forward the success of the college and ensure we are delivering the education and training that will deliver the skills needed by our learners and their future employers.
'No additional pressures and added uncertainty'
With the conclusion of joint consultation, the next stage is individual consultation. As the college is now closed as a result of the coronavirus situation, staff involved in the process will be contacted at an appropriate time that suits the individual to arrange a face-to-face discussion with their manager or nominee. These meetings are likely to be delayed due to college closure and we will keep staff up-to-date and consider options put forward by those individuals to support their personal circumstances. This will deliver a platform to support a clear understanding of the purpose of individual consultation and give the staff member the opportunity to ask questions on any appropriate point, understand opportunities open to them, understand the process clearly and provide feedback and alternative suggestions.
We understand that change can be challenging at any time, but particularly in these unprecedented circumstances that we now find ourselves in. Our aims are, therefore, to ensure there are no additional pressures and added uncertainty caused by unnecessary delays, whilst still ensuring staff can input and question, as required. We are committed to managing this process with staff and will do everything we can to support them throughout this period.
Dr Ken Thomson is principal of Forth Valley College.