Have you ever thought about teaching a vocational FE subject, but wondered how to get involved or what it would really be like? One Plumbing Lecturer shared his experiences with us.
TeachInFE is constantly striving to be the number one Careers Hub for Teaching in Further Education and aims to give you the most comprehensive view of the sector. As part of this, we have spoken to FE teachers to give you a first-hand opinion on teaching within the sector. To start things off we spoke to Enda McBrien a Plumbing Lecturer at Reading College.
If you work in a vocational trade, you may not have realised that teaching was a career path that you could pursue. There are lots of different routes into teaching, and your expertise in your chosen trade is a fantastic asset to Further Education Colleges. Vocational teachers are always in high demand across the sector and there are a lot of benefits to working for a College. Many of them will let you gain your teaching qualifications on the job or work part time so that if you run your own business or want to continue working in your trade, you can keep doing this on the side.
Enda kindly agreed to share his experiences of teaching in Further Education. He spoke to us about the positives of teaching, the challenges, and how he got involved.
What made you decide to work in Further Education?
Once I realised at a very young age that I wasn’t going to become a professional footballer for Celtic FC I had to look at different careers. Teaching was the one career that also stood out for me. My father, who is now retired, was a GCSE Geography teacher and former Principal of my local secondary school. My sister, Niamh, is also a teacher, a very successful and hardworking primary school teacher. I thought I was going to be a PE teacher when I was younger, however job opportunities would be slim, so when studying for my A-Levels I settled on management and in particular Human Resource Management. However, Higher Education and university weren’t for me so I returned home from studying in Belfast to work as an apprentice plumber which was a great experience. After working as a plumber for a number of years and then getting a role with a private training organisation I soon got the teaching bug again and wanted to teach plumbing.
How did you become a teacher in Further Education?
I worked for McGoldrick Plumbing and Heating a local domestic plumbing and heating company back home in Derrylin Co. Fermanagh. I served my 4-year apprenticeship with Sean & Ciaran McGoldrick and achieved a Level 3 NVQ in Domestic Plumbing and Heating. I also gained qualifications in Solar Energy, Oil and Gas.
After working with McGoldrick P&H for a good number of years I decided I would like a change but wanted to stay in the plumbing industry. I then got a job in Belfast as an Apprenticeship Advisor for a private training organisation looking after and assessing Level 2 and Level 3 NVQ Plumbing Apprentices in N. Ireland. I progressed through the company gaining qualifications in Assessing, Internal Quality Assurance, Management, Child Protection and finally completing a Level 3 in teaching the PTLLS award.
After completing the PTLLS Award, I started looking for teaching posts, however, there were none available at home so I had to look for teaching jobs in England via FE job sites. This is where I found the teaching post in Reading College and thankfully after a successful interview I was offered the post and have been teaching here since September 2014. Last September I graduated from Oxford Brookes with a Level 7 PGCE in Post Compulsory Education, a very proud day for myself and my family.
What is your favourite thing about teaching in Further Education?
The students. Most students I teach are full time students, these students have previously had negative experiences with education i.e. failing GCSE’s. These students, to begin with, at the start of the academic year have no real understanding or experience of the plumbing industry. So, my favourite part is seeing these students achieve, succeed and become happy in their educational environment. To watch these students grow in confidence and skill level throughout the year and produce quality work that would outshine even some of best apprentice students is so rewarding. To watch the students grow and develop from children into young adults and to play a part in that is very satisfying and rewarding.
Can you describe what a normal plumbing lesson might look like or involve?
I teach both practical and theory to our students. My teaching hours are approx. 60% theory/classroom and 40% practical/workshop teaching. I really enjoy the mixture and the blend. The majority of the students I teach have come to study plumbing because they would rather a practical job than an office based job and therefore don’t really like classroom teaching. So, this in itself poses a great challenge to get these students interested in the theoretical aspect of their course. I use quite a number of activities especially in the first 8-12 weeks of their course so that they are happy and comfortable in their classroom environment. I bring as many examples from the workshop into the classroom and use a lot of digital technology as well. I try to blend my teaching in the classroom with what they are learning in the workshop.
Teaching in the workshop is a much more relaxed environment. It involves quite a lot of coaching and demonstrating at the start when introducing a skill. Then as the students progress, it is just fine tuning their skills and techniques on a one to one basis so they can produce a high standard of work.
How do you stay up to date on current Plumbing trends?
Social media and Twitter in particular are very important. There is a large group of Plumbers and Plumbing Manufacturers on Twitter. They share their daily experiences and changes in industry. I also help my friend, Richie, who is a plumber out whenever he needs a hand. I also rely on my apprentice students to share in class about their experiences and any new systems or tools they have seen. We also invite lots of manufacturers into Reading college to speak to our students about the latest trends and products.
Are there ever any challenges when teaching in Further Education and how do you overcome them?
As with any job there is always challenges however I am very lucky to work alongside a great team consisting of Steve Dix, Duncan Van Bishop and Chris Naylor. One challenge a lot of FE teachers experience is student behaviour. We tackle this as a team, from day one we set student expectation and stick to it. We work on the premise of “Give Respect, Earn Respect” for both us and our students. If we don’t respect and listen to our students then they won’t respect and listen to us.
What advice would you give to any other people or plumbers thinking of entering the FE sector?
Do it! It is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Go down to your local college and see if there are any vacancies or use the internet and look at websites such as www.teachinfe.com. That is what I did.
If you have enjoyed reading about Enda’s experiences and want to get involved, click here to explore the latest teaching vacancies in vocational subjects from Further Education Colleges across the UK.