What got you into motor maintenance?
I completed a vehicle maintenance apprenticeship after leaving school in 1983. I then started building up a small vehicle maintenance and repair business as far as I could over the next 10 years before seeking a fresh challenge.
How did you become a lecturer?
I ‘stumbled’ into teaching thanks to a friend teaching at the college who asked I’d be interested in certain teaching vacancies coming up. I got offered some part-time work in 2003 (14 hours a week) at the end of the academic year; I delivered practical lessons (mainly vehicle component removal and re-fitting) to full-time students (aged 16-18) studying for levels 1-3 vehicle maintenance and repair qualifications. It wasn’t easy as I was a ‘new boy’ with no teaching experience, but I got great support from some fantastic colleagues.
What’s your main role?
I'm curriculum manager of the automotive section within the engineering and science curriculum area. I’m responsible for a £2m-plus annual budget, 20-plus teaching staff and more than 500 students from level 1 to degree level. I look after the operational and strategic management of my section's quality and finances and manage the team that designs and delivers the curriculum, from entry-level through to level 6. I set recruitment targets and manage the internal student recruitment processes, monitor and manage quality and oversee the implementation of interventions to support students if necessary. I also do teaching observations and staff development reviews, timetable classes, set the commercial course delivery schedule and prepare and present quarterly performance reports.
What do you like most about FE?
Seeing students develop and progress; taking something from the planning stage, seeing it in action, and then the end results, especially if someone achieves something they’d never thought possible. Blackpool has its own deprivation issues, so I get a real sense of pride when, say, I’ve helped a young person from a disadvantaged background receive their family’s first pay-slip for generations.
What's a typical day?
I try to be first in, last out. I get in at 7.30am to avoid the traffic and before any of my team or students. I leave around 6pm. Early morning is a crucial time to offer support to staff and nip in the bud any negative issues among students so that the day runs as smoothly as possible; a class can quickly be affected by their teacher’s mood. I love daily 'to-do' lists and check mine first and last thing; I never complete them, given all the unplanned, time-consuming activities that fill my inbox. I might do observations or attend a staff development review meeting. I might collect, collate and analyse data for a report; timetable for a semester; or plan a recruitment event. My job is so varied.
I don’t teach much in my role but often engage with learners, make impromptu visits to groups of students to get informal feedback, see how things are going, and motivate students on a bad day. In the office at the end of the day, I’ll pick up on chatter to assess the day and discuss any team concerns to avoid people taking worries home. Lessons (1.5 or 3 hours) generally start at 9am, with two morning and two afternoon sessions with breaks in-between plus lunch. Lecturers also have admin time to update individual learning plans, chase any absences and attend team meetings, plus at least half a day to prepare lessons.
Two specific activities you did last week?
I finished amending timetables so we can deliver a vibrant, blended teaching and learning experience to meet Covid-19 requirements. I also developed two new online courses for our virtual learning platform, Canvas.
What's the most challenging aspect of your role?
Engaging the most difficult to reach students. Industry experience can really help here in linking up the roles in industry with what actually drives the students.
What do you like teaching most?
The programme’s theory - in class. With my wide industrial experience, the real-life stories I have on every topic almost always engage the whole class!
Which lessons do your students most enjoy?
Hands-on sessions in the workshop, but if you have credibility (from your industry background) and are firm, consistent and empathetic, every lesson can be their favourite.
Any achievement you are proud of?
The numbers of young people I and my colleagues have helped climb the social mobility ladder. Some are the first in their families to have a trade or earn a degree.
What advice would you give would-be lecturers?
First, stick at it - it’s really worth it. I often felt out of my depth when I started teaching and considered returning to industry. But 17 years on, I’m so glad I stayed. It’s truly rewarding knowing you have helped make a difference to so many lives. And second, immerse yourself in your new career. Don’t 'forget your roots' and your wealth of experience, but try all you can to learn your new profession.
How is Covid-19 affecting your course delivery?
Looking towards September, I’ve tried to build in the right blend of online and face-to-face teaching, learning and assessment without compromising quality and the student experience - all students will attend on-site every week but in small, safe group sizes.
Our face-to-face delivery has to focus on practical skills development and preparation for assessment; this will be supported in part through live, practical demonstrations, using the same vehicles, rigs, tools and equipment the students will use, and in the same locations. When students do attend they will then need to spend only minimal time familiarising themselves with the activity and resources and focus more on developing specific skills.
Most knowledge will be delivered online, with support where needed. Online learning is now about teaching and engaging students in a live, online environment, rather than, as before, supplying support material for homework or other independent learning. One challenge is the little or no contact that many new 16-year-old students will have had with their secondary schools since the March lockdown , meaning unfamiliarity with the new mode of online teaching and learning. Our induction will be crucial.
What personal qualities and skills do you need?
Resilience, honesty, empathy, being a team player, keeping cool in a crisis, and being able to learn new things fast and problem solve.
Background, training and qualifications?
Industry experience (crucial and valuable), and a relevant level 3 qualification (in my case vehicle maintenance and repair). Lecturers normally need to gain a level 3 teaching qualification in a set period and sponsored by the college after they have started teaching.
A key question for an interviewee applying for your type of role?
Describe a big challenge and how you’ve overcome it.
What spurs you on to work each day?
A job in which I enjoy almost every minute; I’ve only ever clock-watched to check if I’ve enough time to finish the next task!