How FE teaching can help plug the skills gap in manufacturing

Posted on 26 Sep 2023 by The Manufacturer

Matthew Yeldham is a Further Education (FE) teacher from East Coast College, in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. Matthew began his career in the motor industry working in independent garages and dealerships before becoming a full time FE teacher in Motor Vehicles Studies in November 2021.

Matthew Yeldham, Further Education teacher, East Coast College

Wanting to inspire and motivate the next generation of manufacturers, Matthew now enjoys sharing his industry experience with learners and watching them grow. Here Matthew explains why he believes teaching in FE can support a pipeline of talent into the manufacturing industry – helping to tackle the sector’s skills gap.

Becoming successful in the manufacturing industry hasn’t been an easy journey for me. I initially faced numerous rejections but I persevered and completed my Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications at Writtle College in Essex.

Fortunately, I was able to get a job at a garage in London working on Black Cabs where I gained valuable knowledge and experience while completing my Level 3 apprenticeship in Motor Vehicle Studies. Eventually I moved to an independent garage where we worked on vehicles ranging from Ford Fiestas to Ferraris, carrying out routine vehicle maintenance, changing engines or rectifying mechanical or electrical faults.

After 15 years working across the industry, I decided I was ready for my next challenge. I actively follow industry trends and consistently seek opportunities for further training and courses. Having worked with a number of apprentices throughout my career I had a good understanding of how local FE colleges train people to join the industry – I also trained at a further education college myself.

Keen to find a new opportunity where I could further my own development whilst staying connected to the industry, I made the decision to teach in further education. I looked at opportunities at local colleges and spotted they offered a course in Motor Vehicle Studies, my specialism, so I applied via the website. I was delighted to be offered an interview and my training and experience in the trade impressed the college, so they offered me a role.

FE teaching gave me the opportunity to share my industry skills and experience with the next generation of learners interested in joining the manufacturing sector – and I already had the skills needed to get started. I’m now completing my Certificate in Education whilst on the job which I’ll complete July 2024. You don’t always need a degree or teaching qualification to get started as you can undertake teacher training on the job like I am – so you start earning straight away.

Further education (FE) is any formal learning for those aged 16+ that is not a degree and covers a wide range of subject areas from manufacturing and engineering to healthcare, construction or law. I love the diversity of the role and no day is the same. I teach students who have just finished their GCSEs but learners in FE can range from post 16 to adults of all ages looking to change career or learn a new trade.

One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching in FE is witnessing the transformation of learners into future mechanics. I’ve learnt how to help shift students from a fixed to a growth mindset – helping them create a vision for their future career. Playing a part in this journey is a real privilege as a further education teacher.

While sharing stories from my career helps students to understand the opportunities within the industry, ultimately, it’s the industry skills and experience that I gained throughout my years in the sector that’s really valuable.  Those who work in the sector know the industry isn’t just about turning a spanner.

There’s new technology consistently being introduced that has the potential to be real game changer. By teaching the latest techniques and sharing how technology is being used to innovate within the sector, I’m in a unique position to be able to inspire and inform students so they’re ‘sector ready’ when they complete their courses.

Bringing this real-life experience into the FE sector plays a vital role in helping to plug the skills gap and train up future talent. Those that are working in the sector are well placed to deliver courses to students interested in joining our sector and it’s a great opportunity for those looking to use their existing skills in a new way and stay connected to our industry.

And you don’t have to completely change your career either as teaching in FE can be flexible – many FE teachers teach part time or on a flexible basis, meaning you can teach alongside your current job or other commitments. I now enjoy acting as a key connector between the manufacturing industry and the FE sector and often match potential employers with eager students who are actively seeking work opportunities.

When I started working in the manufacturing sector, I never thought I’d be teaching my trade once day, but my skills were more valuable than I realised. I think the same is probably too for many professionals across the sector.

If you’re interested in exploring the opportunities within the FE sector, why not reach out to your local college? I found the transition process to be simple, and you will be helping prepare the next pipeline of talent in your profession, ensuring our industry continues to have qualified people it needs.

To find out more about how you can share your skills by teaching in FE, including a dedicated support service, click here.

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