How can I get experience in the travel industry? And can I move from civil service to FE?

Travel trouble

Q. I recently graduated with my HND in travel and tourism and registered with recruitment agencies, but have been told that, because I don't have experience, it's unlikely anyone will give me the salary I am looking for. I am getting rather anxious as I want to return to university in October to start my BA (Hons) in the same subject. I would need to attend one day a week.

A. The travel industry often likes to employ students, particularly those who have travelled. The easiest place to start, according to recruitment specialist Julia Feuell, whose company New Frontiers runs an e-mail careers advice service for those in the industry, is usually in reservations.

Tour operators and call centres offer training to those with little or no experience and they operate shift systems, so studying while working is possible. They pay commission, which can bump up earnings if you are good at selling. You are not alone - many in this sector feel that, on graduating, they are offered junior roles on low salaries. This isn't unusual in competitive industries, I'm afraid, but once you get some experience behind you, your qualifications should add weight to your CV. If you have travelled, make sure it's on your CV, as well as any experience in customer service jobs.

Write covering letters explaining why you think you have the skills to do the job, and be persistent. Rather than hide behind e-mails pick up the phone. Look up www.newfrontiers.co.uk; the Association of Women Travel Executives ( www.awte-london.co.uk) and consider joining the Institute of Travel and Tourism ( www.itt.co.uk), which has a careers guide, a newsletter and an annual conference to help you meet others in the business so you can swap experiences.

Furthering a career

Q. I have recently turned 48 and been made redundant from the civil service. I would like to gain a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) to enable me to teach in further education. I have experience of teaching first-year undergraduates, but am concerned about job prospects.

A. To teach in FE, you would need a PGCE for post-compulsory education - anything after the age of 16, or a City and Guilds certificate in FE teaching .

You can train before you teach, or, if you find a job, while teaching. But bear in mind that government and politics is a minority subject in colleges, taught mainly at A level. This means few lecturers can sustain a full timetable teaching these subjects - most also teach another social science.

The teacher-training courses for the post-16 sector are generic, so you would not have to train to teach a single subject, as you would with a schools PGCE. But it is advisable to think about the latter. Gaining qualified teacher status (QTS) that way will allow you to work in colleges and schools, and schools pay more. (It doesn't, currently, work the other way around - if you train for FE teaching, you will be unable to work in a school.)

There will be more windows to teach your speciality in a school, and there is more financial support for school teacher training than for FE. You could fall foul of the perceived need for younger staff in FE, as many staff will retire in the next 10 years, even though age discrimination will be outlawed from October.

Give yourself maximum flexibility, check out local school needs with the education adviser in your education authority, and don't forget the private sector.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk

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