The FE sector is facing more uncertainty with the announcement of future cuts in funding. The challenge of college governance is intensifying and even more focus is being placed on developing employer partnerships to deliver additional income streams and support the development of a curriculum for future employment.

As employer engagement continues to rise up the list of FE college strategic priorities, the role of Business Development is essential to future college success. FE Business recently attended the FETL Inaugural Lecture:  ‘Leaders or Leadership – The Century of the System’ given by Dr James Krantz, where he gave an excellent insight to leadership and talked about giving leaders space and creating an environment for success.

I wanted to take some time to reflect on how we are supporting our business development leaders in the FE sector. We work with a number of colleges up and down the country and the key words are “growth, income diversification, and commercial development”. The two factors that will deliver these required outcomes are a clear understanding of the external opportunities and our internal capacity and capability to deliver on them. Evidently, the external market is a viable opportunity with constant media attention on the UK skills shortages and research studies from leading bodies about the need for further leadership and management skills in UK business. How the sector supports its internal capacity (business development and responsive training delivery) will determine how we will maximise the external opportunity with employers.

How are we perceived?

Business development leaders in the sector have exceptional talent. When building employer relationships these leaders are seen as business solutions experts who can deliver business growth by unlocking the potential of their employees through people development. So how do we support business development leaders to increase their sales performance and excel in employer engagement?

Current Challenges

In this first blog we pose four challenges for consideration that need to be overcome to empower our business development leaders to succeed:

  1. Business Development and Internal Development

Do we provide our business development leaders with the time to invest in developing their teams and infrastructure? How are we developing the skills of our business leaders and professionals? If the sector wants high outputs in terms of income diversification and growth, we need to ensure that there is sufficient input in terms strategic and skill development.

  1. Business Time v College Time

Our business development leaders perform best when focused on external employer activity. How many internal meetings are our external specialists involved in?

  1. Operational Fitness v Strategic Direction

How involved are our business development leaders in operational activity as opposed to strategically being able to grow the business? Business development leaders are injecting pace and enabling colleges to become business fit but are we enabling them to rest, recover and review the strategic direction of their employer training business?

  1. Business Proposals v Business Solutions

One of the key factors in increasing sales performance in the sector is how we support the creation of an employer responsive service. How do we create alignment between sales and delivery? How do we create operating models that enable us to service employer needs with value propositions in adequate timescales?

Later in the week, we’ll post some corresponding thoughts about the conditions required for employer engagement success.

FE Business is a leading employer engagement consultancy that supports FE colleges and training providers to achieve accelerated growth with their employer led training businesses. We’re passionate about the power of education and business working together, and our purpose is simple. We help education organisations reach their full commercial and competitive potential.

Please see for our range of training and consultancy services for the sector, or contact Omar Khan ([email protected]) or Mark Cook ([email protected])