Before joining Hartlepool College this February, Brian Rose spent more than 15 years in the construction industry, first as a CAD (computer-aided design) technician and then as technical coordinator for a wide variety of commercial and social housing property development projects.
Why and how did you become a lecturer in the built environment?
I left school at 16 with a few CSEs and went to college as an apprentice working towards a hotel catering qualification. I didn’t enjoy that much and ended up becoming a cinema projectionist for the next 10 years, something I loved! It was hard work, though - I was often working 80 hours a week. I transferred within the cinema chain down to Hertfordshire but then left my job to move to the north-east for family reasons.
I could draw so I soon got work with a printing company as a graphic artist using auto-CAD (drafting software used by architects). This kick-started my construction career, which led on to jobs as a CAD (computer-aided design) technician for Durham University’s estates team, and for a local housing association. I was put through an HNC design course and became the society’s technical lead when it started building its own homes.
I then joined a social housing developer in Hartlepool as technical coordinator in 2015, liaising with construction partners, checking drawings, working closely with the estimating department - and doing some teaching! Companies taking part in local authority social housing schemes were also expected to support young people, apprentices and the long-term unemployed with skills training. I organised workshops, ran health and safety sessions and led site visits for local schoolchildren. I enjoyed the teaching element and, prompted by a colleague who said I had natural rapport with young people plus my own need for a change, a job came up at the college and I’ve been there since February.
How did you find the transition to teaching?
A steep learning curve. Besides close support from colleagues, I have a mentor who checks in every so often to see I’m ok. On joining the college, I was immediately put on an NVQ assessor’s course, and will start a level 3 teaching course next year.
What’s your main role?
I cover the technical and professional aspects of a level 3 built environment BTec, focusing mainly on health and safety, technical and design construction principles, building technology, graphical detail and surveying. I also teach technical and design to (older) level 4 HNC students and carry out NVQ assessments. Many students aim to become civil engineers, quantity surveyors, architectural technicians or technical coordinators.
What’s a typical day?
I start at 8am. Each week I do 24 hours of teaching plus 13-14 hours of preparation. Mondays are lesson-free so I spend it preparing for the rest of the week and going out to assess NVQ learners and talk to their employers. On teaching days lessons start at 9am. Tuesday is typical; it kicks off with a two-hour HNC session of 25 students - sessions I found intimidating at first, but when the class realised I was fresh out of industry we started some good discussions. Then it’s 90 minutes’ preparation and/or marking, finding a room to power up my laptop, followed by two 90-minute afternoon online sessions with year 2 BTec students on surveying and design respectively, a 30-minute break and then another two-hour HNC session from 4-6pm.
Thursday is my longest day - I prepare and mark up to 11.30am for the following week and then take a mixed group of full and part-time year 2 BTec students up to 1pm - which works well as the full-timers learn a lot from questioning the part-timers about their practical workplace experience. Then more preparation up to a technical session with apprentices from 4.30-6pm and surveying online from 6-7.30pm.
Any specific tasks you did last week?
I spent time persuading an NVQ employer that the college needed to assess the company’s day release students at a higher standard than the employer was working to. I wanted to follow the surveying technician standard that includes knowledge of building principles and can also be applied across a wide range of career paths and thus be of more use to students.
What’s been a key challenge?
I’d only been in class four weeks before lockdown in March and I had to work out how best to teach practical-heavy subjects online. Covid had put paid to taking students outside to do surveying so I’ve been showing them online how survey land in their garden or near their house using a measuring tape or in some cases the iPhone ‘Measure’ app.
What do you like most about teaching?
Class discussions. I’ll pose questions, my learners will reply and then ask me what I’d do in the workplace. That enables me to pass on knowledge that they’d otherwise gain only by working in a building environment. It’s often practical things like how to save money and time by using up-to-date service drawings; or drawing up a risk register (not just a health and safety checklist) that identifies all risks associated with a project that could affect its cost, completion date and general progress.
What’s special about working in FE?
For someone with no teaching qualification, I’ve been given phenomenal support by my fellow staff. I’ve left a sector that expects you to know things straight away in a new job, and entered one where my colleagues say they know I don’t have a teaching background so they’ll ensure I’ll get all the support I need.
Any achievement you are proud of?
I saved my learners a lot of time when they had to create windows and door spec schedules for suppliers to provide the right products. Rather than meeting syllabus requirements to the letter by producing three pieces of work with separate sets of specs, I said industrial practice was to place all the specs directly on just one design drawing. “It will still get you a distinction!” I assured them.
Any tips for new or would-be lecturers?
Ask your students to scrutinise real working drawings and find out what some of the common industrial terms used mean, eg why is there a red line on a drawing of foundations, or what does ‘claymast/er' mean? [Answer: a tree affecting the foundation]. Get first-year part-timer students on day release to pass on their workplace experience to first-year full-time students who lack exposure to the industry.
What personal qualities and skills do you need?
Be confident and maintain eye contact in your first engagements. Be clear and have a sense of humour. Make lessons entertaining and avoid death by PowerPoint - try to adapt online presentations to keep them light and interesting. I break up mine with tasks - such as getting learners to go off and research for 15 minutes, showing a quick three-minute video, or adding animation to some of the slides posing questions such as what are the five disadvantages of CAD ?
What about background/training/qualifications?
An HNC or HND and then a degree in the built environment. Considerable industrial experience ideally gained while working as a technical coordinator or manager in utilities or as a services administrator. I’m now finishing my NVQ assessor’s course, studying for a level 3 teaching qualification early next year, followed by level 4, and then maybe a PGCE. I studied a lot through the summer vacation and was averaging six hours at weekends at start of this academic year.
Key interview questions for a would-be lecturer?
Identify the six approved documents needed when submitting proposals for planning permission? …. What sustainable construction methods would you use to meet the government’s zero carbon emission targets? ….
What spurs you on to work each day?
The opportunity to help students get ahead by sharing my industry knowledge and real life experiences on any subject raised in class. It always seems to go down well with my students.