Further education providers are the unsung heroes of the UK education system. They provide high-quality academic and vocational education, including apprenticeship training, for more than 3 million young people and adults.

They work closely with employers to develop a workforce with the skills needed in their localities, which boosts employment and strengthens the economy.

The Further Education landscape is complex and diverse. It consists of education and training providers, including General FE colleges (GFEs); specialist colleges (for example land based or residential special educational needs); Independent Training Providers (ITPs), some in the charitable or third sector; Work Based Learning (WBL); and Adult and Community Learning (ACL).

There are 325 FE colleges in England, which have a combined budget of £7.4 billion. Colleges can vary significantly in size, with budgets ranging from £10 million to £50 million and student numbers from 2,000 to more than 15,000. In addition there are upwards of 1,000 vocational learning and employment providers. They are primarily independent, private, not-for-profit and voluntary sector training and employment services organisations.

For more facts about the further education sector, see the Association of Colleges (AoC) and Association of Education and Learning Providers (AELP).

About the Inspiring FE Governance service

Inspiring FE Governance is a free service dedicated to finding individuals with the right skills to serve on FE boards in England, including as chairs of finance committees. It is funded by the Education and Training Foundation and run by Education and Employers, a national charity.

The service is unique in that it draws on the state-of-the-art online technology developed by Education and Employers, as well as more than 35,000 volunteers from business who have already signed up to its programmes.

Education and Employers is an independent charity, set up in 2009, that facilitates links between education and business. It runs the highly successful Inspiring the Future programme, which encourages employees to volunteer in schools, as well as the Inspiring Governance programme, which recruits high calibre governors into schools.

Inspiring FE Governance is also unique in that it has a direct link into the further education sector through the Education and Training Foundation. The Foundation is owned by the FE and training sector. It was set up in 2013, with government backing, to work with teachers, trainers, leaders and employers to help them deliver excellent further and vocational education and training.

Devolved regions

The Inspiring FE Governance service is funded to support governance of FE providers in England. For more information about FE governance in Wales, a good starting point is Colleges Wales. In Scotland, the body that represents FE colleges is Colleges Scotland. Northern Ireland, the relevant organisation is Colleges Northern Ireland. To make connections with other types of FE providers, a starting point is the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, which has members across the UK.