New FE teachers talk about their early experiences of their new roles

There are many different routes into becoming an FE teacher, trainer or assessor. More information on these routes can be found via the FE Advice website. The following FE teachers tell of their early experiences of switching from working in industry into teaching.

New FE teachers, Scott Stevenson, Lecturer in Plastering at Kirklees College, Jamie Ease, Lecturer in Nuclear Engineering within the National College for Nuclear at Lakes College, and two new EKC Group lecturers, Tom Isted, Lecturer in Games Development / Digital and Shaun McDonagh, Lecturer in Plumbing, talk about their move from industry into the FE sector.

Photo of Scott Stevenson

Scott Stevenson

Before I became an FE teacher, I previously owned a small plastering company based in Oldham, I had between 5-15 sub-contractors/employees throughout the year dependant on the tasks we had in hand. I have been a plasterer ever since I left school in 2005, serving a full apprenticeship with a local plasterer named Gary Ainsworth. At the age of 19, I decided to spread my wings and go self-employed, setting up my own business.

I was first introduced to FE by a friend of mine, whom already worked as a Plastering Lecturer at Kirklees College. Like myself, he had a good plastering business based in the same town and had made the move away from this into the FE sector. Due to the respect I had for him and the knowledge he has in the industry, it was a perfect opportunity to slowly make the transition into teaching with his guidance.

The main motivators for my career change were; to help pass on my knowledge of the industry to the next generation of plasterers, this is something I have always enjoyed doing as I have had numerous apprentices over the years. I was also in drastic need of a whole work life balance rejig, as I was working 7 days a week, 12-hour days for the past 10 years. Working hard is something that comes naturally to me, as it is all I have ever known. I am positive that if I can commit the same passion and effort into teaching as I have to other avenues I have previously gone down, then a career working in the FE sector can only go from strength to strength.

In the short time I have been working for Kirklees College, my main thoughts on the role are that it is challenging yet rewarding. I believe that once I have built rapport with my learners and begin to find my feet in my new role, I will then really enjoy teaching and watching my students go through the learning process. This helps them become qualified tradesmen with the skills and tool set to further their career. This on its own will be extremely rewarding and give me great job satisfaction.

Photo of Jamie East

Jamie East

I had been in the engineering industry for 7 years, with my previous job before teaching was as an Industrial Engineer at a control and automation firm., This was a very interesting and versatile role that required a lot of creative thinking and programming. The role was to support engineering design and commissioning projects, mostly via PLC programming and some industrial engineering in terms of sensors and drives. The company had an excellent culture for development, so I was often challenged with new things such as different models of equipment or ways of programming; this made it a fantastic place to work whilst I was reading for my engineering degree.

I was mostly attracted to get into FE teaching by National College for Nuclear (NCfN) – a place where I could potentially make a significant difference to the UK nuclear industry through education and training. But in general, I always had it in the back of my mind after studying my HNC at South Tyneside College. One of my lecturers, Brian Rowe, encouraged me to go and take my education further so I had more choice and prospects in life – specifically this gave me the motivation to quit my job and read for a BEng at University of Sunderland.

Even here I found many lecturers, specifically Mike Knowles, John Davies, Ken Robson, and Zaki Bahrami encouraged me to take education even further, which I did at the University of Birmingham whilst also helping me to get a job at AR Controls. Whilst at Birmingham, I found the director of education, Paul Noman, to be inspiring in his passion for nuclear education, which is why NCfN at Lakes College is where I ended up.

These educators are why I hope to never stop learning; you can always learn more and broaden your horizons. I like to think I can play a small part in helping learners get the life they want through education, like my teachers did.

“Every day’s a school day” – The FE environment is one of continuous change and incremental improvement for lecturers working there, every week I have something to get better at and new targets to meet. I have also found Lakes College to be a place where all staff are properly focussed on helping students. It makes a big difference to know all the people you work with are on the same page with why we do the job. Mostly I am enjoying the fact that I am making an impact on careers and aspirations – to hear a student of yours got their promotion or is just now confident enough to apply for a competitive apprenticeship is to know you and the college have done their job right.

Photo of Tom Isted

Tom Isted

Before deciding to become an FE lecturer I worked in video game development and design. This involved working on creating games, 3D digital modelling and attending conferences and events. My role was as a digital concept designer working across a range of digital based jobs. Prior to that I worked in web development building websites for clients.

I wanted to change careers and work in FE as a lecturer to continue to build on my own knowledge through being a teacher. I wanted to support students in helping them get into the industry by sharing standard working practices in digital creation.

From my industry experience I have seen that there is a need to build the confidence of new employees working in the digital workplace. I wanted to pass on my skills to ensure that students become confident digital creatives in the future.

I saw working in FE as a great opportunity to change careers whilst still working with digital technology, but within a teaching context.

I am really enjoying the role so far as the lessons have been a lot of fun despite the stress and the challenges. I am enjoying getting feedback from students on their classes, getting a sense of satisfaction from seeing them make gains and progress and knowing that they are learning.

To me the best part of the new role is being in the classroom working directly with the students, and I am enjoying the whole learning process and seeing them develop their skills.

Photo of Shaun McDonagh

Shaun McDonagh

I ran my own plumbing business for 18 years, designing, building and maintaining systems in both domestic and semi-commercial environments. I employed a small team of people and have had apprentices completing their practical work on site with my company. In running my business, I had a dual role, as both the manager and as a plumber on the tools. In addition to being a plumber I had a specialist background in lead work, working on Canterbury Cathedral in the past as a lead worker and restorer.

I wanted a change of career and a new challenge but wanted to stay connected to my trade. I saw FE College teaching as a perfect way to keep connected to plumbing but doing so in a very different role.

I was planning to work for the Royal Engineers in a training capacity but saw the advert for a Plumbing Lecturer, so I chose FE as I wanted to work with young adults and to put something back into the industry. My aim is to train the next generation of plumbers and to make sure that they can do the job properly. I want to promote plumbing as a craft with a high-level skill and professional expertise and feel that I can do this through training and working as an FE teacher.

On a personal level, I wanted the job security of being a teacher, and as a new career it has given me more flexibility to spend time with my family, improving my work-life balance.

The role has been completely different to my first expectations in terms of working with the students and some of their behaviours, and the job has been quite challenging! I have really enjoyed it so far – watching them grow their skills and learn the trade, and I am looking forward to seeing students make good progress on the course. The students are all so different and each class is unique, and it feels like they are re-training me! It is making me very keen to learn the job and improve as a lecturer.

I am enjoying working with a very professional team at EKC as there is a clear structure and support when I need it, and I have been fully accommodated into my new role.

There are no negatives so far, and I feel that my new career is moving in the right direction.

The above FE teachers were supported into their new roles through the Taking Teaching Further initiative. Teachers in the sector come from many different backgrounds with different experience levels and through different routes. Further information about the FE sector and how to become a teacher in FE can be found through the ETF website and the FE Advice website.