Together we Transform: Julie Newton - Walsall College

Julie is a Personal Development and Welfare Officer at Walsall College. She is an advanced practitioner and teaches Construction Industry and functional skills in maths and English.  She also leads a project to support students who have experienced poor attendance, punctuality or behavioural issues. 

Julie is excited to see a change in the construction sector with greater opportunities for women to develop their skills and progress. 

Headshot of Julie Newton Walsall College

Making the transition to teaching 

I used to work in a Local Authority as part of the Exclusions and Reintegration team. We worked with a lot of children who had become disengaged from education for so many reasons, that they were at risk of being expelled. Our key goal was to try to connect the dots between the children, their teachers, and the parents who had so often completely lost faith in the education system.  

It was so rewarding to work with the school and families. To see a child transition back into school with a positive mindset and new aspirations is such a great feeling. 

This sense of achievement is what motivates me, and ultimately what made me decide to take the leap into the world of teaching.   

Covid and students’ mental health 

Many of our students come to college without a clear sense of direction. Some have come out of school with poor grades and few qualifications, so they feel that they’re on the back foot before they’ve begun. 

It’s our job, our duty as good teachers, to help them navigate those feelings and start to think about what they want to achieve. If we can create that connection with them, then they’ll start to believe that they do have a future in whatever career path they choose. 

Covid had a huge impact on young people. Their mental health and self-esteem took a massive knock. They went from socialising in person, to being at home on their own, and having to adapt to a whole new way of learning.  

Women in the construction industry 

There was a common misconception that women were not seen in the world of construction as the industry itself was – and still is to a degree – a male dominant industry. It’s good to see that this is changing as gender equality is promoted and more opportunities are being made available for women to engage in the construction industry.  It’s a great industry to work in, with plenty of opportunities for career progression and skills development. 

As a woman teaching in construction I feel I can support students to embrace the changing workforce attitudes and offer a complete refresh in terms of gender diversity. Women are great communicators and bring good analytical thinking, problem solving, decision making and organisational skills. These can be vital in construction whether that be on-site or within an office.    

We have a small number of female students studying construction but we anticipate these numbers will grow.   I am very excited – a more inclusive future will mean better opportunities for women in construction which will allow us to help build a better tomorrow. 

What gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that at some point during that day, that week, month or term, I’m going to make a difference to someone’s life and have the opportunity to build relationships with young people. And that’s what motivates me to keep progressing my own professional development through SET.  

The importance of feeling connected  

Using the SET membership resources and dedicating time to plan and reflect with my colleagues is crucial. There’s such a huge range of topics to explore, and with so much of it online, it feels even more accessible.  

My SET membership makes me feel connected to the wider world of education. As teachers we should never stand still. We need to continuously evolve to ensure that we’re delivering the best possible learning experience to our students.  

I am currently working towards my ATS qualification. I am looking forward to being able to demonstrate to my colleagues as a female member of staff within the construction trade the mastery of teaching and learning in the new gender diverse world of construction. 

Teaching is a tough career, and despite the challenges we face on a daily basis, I am so grateful for the sense of peer support amongst my colleagues. I know that whatever situation arises, I’m surrounded by a group of dedicated, talented people and we’re all in it together.   

Find out more

Find out more about our Together we transform initiative, and view other case studies, highlighting the transformative impact that the further education and skills sector has on lives across the UK.