“What is FE Teaching?”

If there is one thing you need to know about teaching in further education (FE), it’s that you can inspire the next generation of learners by sharing your workplace skills and knowledge.

Sharing your real-world experiences with students who are passionate about joining your industry will help prepare them for the workplace. If you’ve been working in industries like digital and IT, construction, engineering and manufacturing, legal, finance, and accounting, and health and social care (to name just a few), you could be the perfect candidate for an FE teaching role.

FE teaching allows you to interact with your students in a variety of environments like colleges, workshops, workplaces or community centres. Plus, you’ll be able to work around your lifestyle, with part-time, full-time, or even ad-hoc roles available. So you could teach whilst continuing to work at your current job.

To find out more about the role, we chatted to FE teachers about their experiences, what motivated them to start and what they love most about it, so that you can see how varied and fulfilling a career in FE teaching can be.

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If you had to describe FE teaching, what would you say?

“In a world where many people work because they have to in a job that serves their need for an income and little else, it is a privilege and a pleasure to be able to say that I genuinely love my job,” says Tom D., FE teacher and former lawyer. Tom came into further education teaching after studying law at university, followed by law school and a career as a criminal barrister.

“Both as a lawyer and now as an educator, I am lucky enough to have a role where I know the impact that my work is having.

“I practised law for several years before moving into teaching, so my own career links very clearly to my teaching — I bring practical industry experience with me. I personally teach law and related subjects.

“While examination boards recommend certain approved core texts, teachers always vastly supplement these with additional resources, experiences, examples and projects, which mean that their course is uniquely theirs. We also highly value clinical or other real-world experience so that the theory learned in the classroom is placed in a relevant and practical context.

“To see a student who has previously struggled with a subject suddenly light up as your teaching helps them to that light-bulb moment is an incredible feeling. Working in FE, you are engaging with students at a transformative period in their lives, regardless of age. They are moving to something new, building the foundations of the next stage of their lives, be that university or vocational training or entering the world of work, and helping them to build that foundation is a special and rare opportunity.

“Education is the root of a tree with many branches. Helping students to climb higher than they ever thought possible is an amazing job.”

Teacher in Further Education

Plumbing workshop

What motivated you to become an FE teacher?

“I was working in industry as a plumber, and I had an innate desire to get into education. I think this desire partly came from the excellent experience that I had learning to be a plumber myself and also partly from a feeling that I wanted to use my career to help give learners as many options as possible for their future,” says Mark Hyde, a lecturer at Barking & Dagenham College who’s been teaching in FE for nearly a decade.

“I enjoyed working full time as a plumber but when I thought about my career long term, I knew I wanted something different. It’s hard to explain why that ‘something different’ was education, but it seemed to me to be the career path that kept popping into my head,” Mark says.

“Coming from a typical plumbing background, I did not have a degree or prior teaching qualifications when I started my first teaching role. I had been working in the plumbing industry for over a decade and held the position of supervisor at the company I worked for when I decided to look at routes into education.”

Is it possible to teach alongside other work and life commitments? And how can industry experience help in your role as a teacher in further education?

With full-time, part-time and even ad-hoc further education positions available, whatever your lifestyle is there will be the perfect role to match it. Ellisha Soanes, a social and healthcare lecturer who is now groups head for equality, diversity and inclusion for Eastern Colleges Group, has not only forged ahead with her career in FE but also continues to work on her own projects. “I still do a lot of community-based work and I’m the co-director of Aspire Black London,” Ellisha says.

Ellisha believes that a student seeing you continuing to work in your industry sends a powerful message. “There are hairdressing staff members at my college who have their own salons and also do vocational teaching. For a teacher to say, ‘I’ve got my own salon business and I’m an FE teacher,’ the students are thinking, Oh my goodness, wow. I think that’s really important — you need to see it as well to believe it.”

“You’ve got so many transferable skills that are so needed in FE teaching. Having that industry-based experience is so fundamentally important in teaching.”

A lesson in Law

Teach In Further Education

A lesson in Law

What qualifications did you have when you entered FE teaching? Have you received any teaching qualifications since starting as an FE teacher?

You don’t always need an academic degree or even prior teaching experience to get started. You could start lecturing right away, while training on the job to obtain your teaching qualifications.

“I didn’t have any teaching qualifications,” says Mark, who learned at his interview that this wasn’t a barrier to starting on the path of a career in FE. His organisation funded his training.

“Upon being offered the role, I instantly signed up for my Level 3 and Level 5 teaching education courses. Alongside, I did an assessor course through City & Guilds.”

“Doing these courses was essential as I learned so much about the theory behind teaching and how to structure lessons, manage behaviour, etc. I learned some valuable lessons that I still practise every day in my role as a lecturer. Also, these courses sparked an interest in me to continue to explore teaching theory and, on a government level, how and why certain educational policies are in place. This interest has snowballed over the years, and I am now working towards a part-funded MPhil degree at Sunderland University through an ongoing educational research study I am carrying out.”

What were your perceptions of what teaching meant versus what your actual day-to-day role as an FE teacher is like?

“As I had been through plumbing education myself, I expected 50% of my teaching to be workshop-based,” explains Mark, who teaches full-time in FE (38 hours total; half of those are spent teaching, half preparing lessons, tracking and working as a mentor with other staff members).

“I think I had perceptions that teaching would become like any other job once you got into a routine, but it’s not. Every day is different and throws up different challenges. This can make the job difficult sometimes, but it’s certainly never boring!

“I couldn’t imagine any other job being as rewarding as teaching. When you get to watch a student progress, develop their skills and grow in confidence, it’s an incredible privilege to be a part of it.

“I have much more job satisfaction in my role as a teacher than I ever did as a plumber. This is not to diminish plumbing; I had a good and enjoyable career as a plumber. But with teaching, job satisfaction is on a different level.

“I would say that even if you have the slightest inclination that you might like to give teaching a try, then do it. I think it’s something you have to want to do, but if you have that want, it might be the best career choice you ever made. It was for me.”

Use your experience, make an impact, teach part-time alongside your day job and Share Your Skills by becoming a further education teacher. Find out more here.

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