My Name is Martin Rooney and I am a 31-year-old student teacher from Glasgow. Approaching the end of my schooling, I was clueless with what I wanted to do with my future. University was always promoted as the only successful pathway and at that point in my life the one thing I felt sure about was that further education was not for me.
At 16 I left school to commence a pipe fitting apprenticeship with BAE Systems on the Clyde. I completed this in 3 years and qualified as a pipe fitter. I then decided to undertake a 2-year HNC course in Fabrication, Welding & Inspection Systems attending classes 2 nights a week at my local college after work to add to my CV. I worked with BAE Systems for 7 years in total before taking an exciting opportunity to move to Australia, changing industries to work on a significant oil & gas project supplying fuel to Australia and much of Asia.
After returning to the UK I worked as a subcontractor across Scotland, Ireland & England pipefitting in various industries including shipbuilding, oil & gas, pharmaceutical and biomass.
In my tenth year of pipefitting I felt that a change of direction was required. I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the logistics of my work and the impact it was having on my personal life. I decided to become involved predominantly with those looking to learn as working with young apprentices and helping to mould them into proficient tradespeople was where I found the most job satisfaction. The obvious pathway was college training or teaching pipe-fitting apprentices, because pipe-fitting was all I thought I would be in a position to teach.
The first step in my career change was to return to full time education to complete an HND in Mechanical Engineering. My intention was to simultaneously search for college teaching positions in trade type subjects relevant to my qualifications and experience. I did not initially contemplate going to university because a clear pathway based on my background was not well-established. I did not want to start all over again, but I could not see a means by which I could steer my career as a tradesperson in a new direction, building upon it rather than turning away from it.
Whilst at college I was notified of a new course offered by Strathclyde University which sought tradespeople like me with a background in industry and the relevant HND to embark on a new route into teaching technical education within schools. I was delighted by this opportunity. The course opened my eyes to a new career path which did not follow the traditional template of school followed by university then a teaching career. The course allowed me to take a different pathway from school to an apprenticeship, ten years working as a tradesperson across the world, then a return to education more than a decade after leaving school, and finally university and a teaching career in my 30’s.
The BSc course has been fantastic for my development and I would recommend this pathway to anyone. My only reservations were over my own suitability for university-level education given that I had left school at just 17. I lacked confidence in myself but since entering the course I have never looked back, achieving highly during my first year.
My industry experience is an arsenal often overlooked by those who work in such industries. We consider that we are confined by our trade, when in actuality it is the very thing that renders us suitable to become a respected school teacher. The course lecturers set students up to succeed by bridging the gap in academic writing skills between college and university, and by encouraging confidence in our experience.
I am currently in my final year and undergoing my student placement. Day by day my confidence is growing and although some days may be challenging, they have all been enjoyable and worthwhile. I see myself consistently tested as I adapt my teaching to suit the pace of high achievers, the challenge of misbehaviour, or to meet the requirements of those with additional support needs. There are so many unique characters and personalities that make teachers smile daily and the feeling of achievement from every single day is what makes this an immediately rewarding career.
My ambition is to keep developing on this placement and throughout the remainder of the course in order to become the best teacher for my learners and to project the most confident version of myself. Finally, I would urge anyone to value their own experience and to not play your experience down. Value yourself and count the things you have done, rather than the things you haven’t. Don’t overthink it. The sacrifices of leaving full time paid employment to return to education for several years will seem daunting in the beginning. However, the course is so enjoyable that the time passes quickly and a few years’ commitment in exchange for a long, fulfilling and rewarding future career is certainly worth the challenge.