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Star tech: the next generation

Not sure if you fancy the cut and thrust of industry, but unsure what else there is to do? Have you considered becoming a technology or engineering teacher?

There is a profession that needs engineering and technology graduates. One which provides solid, stable career opportunities and is about as recession proof as you can get. You might not get the really big bucks, but a career as a technology or engineering teacher isn’t as badly paid as you might think.

UK government figures show there are almost 25,000 schools in England and Wales with around another 2,500 in Scotland. Pretty much all of these, plus the thousands of other schools around the world, teach maths, science, technology and computing. Many secondary schools in England now also offer engineering as a vocational subject for pupils from 14 to 19.

Postgraduate students in England can train as teachers by taking year-long courses based in universities and colleges, or take courses based in schools themselves.

Each course involves a minimum of twenty-four weeks in at least two schools to give you practical classroom experience. You’ll also get academic study time to gain the knowledge and understanding to teach successfully. There’s an assessment of your teaching skill, too, where a tutor or an experienced teacher will observe you teaching.

In demand

What’s more, schools, the teaching profession and kids need people like you. Last November, the Department for Education (DFE) said that only 44 per cent of places were taken up on initial teacher training courses for design and technology teachers. A recent survey conducted by the Association for School and College Leaders found that head teachers were having difficulty recruiting both design technology and computing teachers. You’ll also be helping the engineering and technology industry too, albeit indirectly.

Vicky Larkworthy, a trainee teacher, thinks there is a huge disaffection with young people and engineering.

“A large number of pupils I have spoken to are very unclear about what engineering actually is and how broad its scope in industry is,” she says. “Many pupils assume engineering is to do with fixing cars, or maths and physics. I feel it is incredibly important to make clear to students at a young age the huge range of job opportunities and industry sectors that a qualification in engineering would allow them to access. If more pupils were aware of the amazing graphics in 3D modelling and the enjoyment of seeing products run from blue sky thinking to market, there might be greater interest in taking the subject further.”

Who better to do this than an engineering graduate with all that expertise, knowledge and enthusiasm?

Inspire and inform

Pete Maguire, another trainee teacher, adds that he’d spent the previous eight years working for a manufacturing company that has struggled to recruit and maintain good engineers. “There doesn't seem to be any incentives for young people to enter into engineering,” he says, “which has resulted in a glut of old-school engineers who want to bide their time until retirement.”

Pete believes that it’s important to promote the variety of scope that engineering offers.

“The combination of practical and theoretical aspects of engineering enables the creative minds of young people to explore the possibilities of today's technology,” he says. “The broad disciplines incorporated within engineering such as science, maths and design, when applied in a technical manner to tangible products, systems or materials, makes it easier for young people to relate to and engage with this fascinating sector.”

“A lot of engineering is not academic, but is simply the application of common sense with good problem-solving skills. I think industry would benefit greatly by working with schools and colleges to remove the stigma that engineering is all about maths and only for boys,” Vicky adds.

Help to engineer a better world

Earlier this year, the IET launched its Engineer a Better World Campaign with a research report that highlights the need to show parents, particularly of girls, that design, creativity and problem-solving are integral parts of engineering. There’s also a short film to demonstrate young people’s natural fascination with everyday engineering problems and solutions along with more information for parents.

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” says Vicky. “I taught dancing prior to attending university and discovered a passion for teaching then, but my aim was always to combine my aspiration to teach with my favourite subjects design and engineering.”

Vicky, who has a first class honours degree in product design technology, originally applied to teach design and technology, but the course was full. She’s more than happy on the engineering PGCE course.

“I was interested in the resistant materials and product design sides of design and technology,” she says. “Engineering encompasses this, too, with the added bonus of being more heavily biased towards the technical elements of design and production.”

Financial support

There’s a financial incentive to take up teaching these days and the better your undergraduate performance, the greater the incentive. Maths, physics and computing graduates are eligible for bursaries from £9,000 to £25,000 depending on their degree classification. Trainee design technology teachers with a first class honours degree or a PhD can claim £12,000. With a 2:1 or a master’s degree you can claim £9,000. A 2:2 and it’s £4,000.

Trainee maths, physics and computing teachers with a 2:1 or higher can also apply for a teacher training scholarship. Earlier this year, the government put aside £3.6m to employ industry experts to teach primary teachers how to teach computer programming, an essential part of the new computing curriculum.

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