Further Forces: Alex Knowles

Alex was in the RAF for 15 years, working as an Aircraft Technician, he was then promoted to Mechanical Technician Supervisor and subsequently worked as an RAF Recruiter. He is now an Engineering Lecturer at Grantham College and has completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) Level 7 through the Further Forces Programme. Alex is the first participant to gain his PGCE qualification through Further Forces.

What made you consider the Further Forces programme?

I had always had an aspiration to get into teaching. But I wanted to teach Mechanical Engineering so Further Education seemed the better option as, unlike in schools, it is more engineering focused so I could use my technical knowledge and skills.

During my resettlement, I did the six free online Pre-ITT modules created by Further Forces. These gave me a taste of what skills and knowledge is needed in teaching FE. I then signed up with the University of Portsmouth to begin my teacher training and secured a teaching post at Grantham College while I was training. All the training was paid for by Further Forces.

I started off by studying part-time over two years, but I switched to study full-time, which is a year. Both routes allowed me to do a day a week at university, while being in college for the other days. Full-time meant four assignments in the year, which was manageable for me.

How have you found the transition from the forces to teaching in FE?

The work levels were a bit of a shock. As an engineer in the RAF the pressure is kept off because they don’t want a plane to fall out of the sky! However, the support I got from my tutors was great and the guidance from the Education and Training Foundation was really good.

There are mentors funded as part of the Further Forces who provide individual support. I think this is really useful, especially for people who may not have any experience of studying in Higher Education.

The students I teach made a real difference. They were really understanding of my situation – that I was new to teaching, so they worked with me. FE is different to schools as it is more of a partnership between the teacher and students.

What plans do you have for the future?

I graduated in July with my PGCE. I am really enjoying being part of the team of Engineering teachers at Grantham College so I look forward to growing with the team.

What would you say to anyone else thinking about training through the Further Forces programme?

I expect most people in the Forces want to do a job that makes a difference. And teaching in FE lets you do that. Through Further Forces you get to study at university, and it is all paid for, plus they help you find and secure a teaching job.

Further Forces is an Education & Training Foundation programme supported by the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Education and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Its aim is to support anyone leaving the Military to bring their valuable experience, technical knowledge and skills into teaching in Further Education (FE).

As part of the fully funded training, Service Leavers are supported by a subject-specialist mentor, in addition to a tutor and college manager. This mentor is independent of both the college and tutor, so their focus is solely on supporting the individual Service Leaver in their training and teaching. To find out more, but with no commitment, contact Further Forces: info@furtherforces.org.uk.