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How I Became A Head Of Faculty

27th April 2022

The Post: Head of Faculty for Professional and Social Sciences at South West College

The Post Holder: Carol Viney

Give a brief outline of your career to date.

I have spent most of my career working in the Further Education (FE) sector. I worked in a number of part-time temporary jobs while living in London and I trained initially as a secretary. My first role in the FE sector was with the London College of Printing where I taught short hand and communications studies to radio journalists. I also worked at both the South Thames College in Putney and the College of North East London before moving back to Northern Ireland. I joined the team at Fermanagh College as it was then in 1992 as a part-time Business and Administration lecturer and the college supported my career development by enrolling me on an MBA through Ulster University which I completed over the course of two years. This helped me work my way up through the organisation with roles including curriculum manager and deputy head of department.

What was your favourite subject at school?

My favourite subject at school was Mathematics.

Did you go on to further/higher education, if so what did you study and where?

I studied French and German at university with a view to becoming a bi-lingual personal assistant in London.

How did you get into your area of work?

I worked as a secretary in a number of ‘temp’ roles in London and this led to my appointment as a part-time lecturer at the London College of Printing where I taught short hand and communications to radio journalists in the days before mobile phones or portable recorders. Following that I worked in both the South Thames College and College of North East London before returning home to Northern Ireland when my children were young.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

Teaching wasn’t something that I was initially focused on. Growing up I always thought of teaching in terms of Primary School or Secondary School teaching. However I really enjoyed the experience of teaching adults and my role at the London College of Printing really opened up the world of Further Education for me – I was fascinated by the close links between the curriculum and industry and I enjoyed the fact that I was training people to be industry ready. Further Education is a different type of teaching.

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

My background in secretarial work in industry gave me the experience I needed initially to accept the part-time lecturing roles in London and here in Enniskillen. After joining the team at Fermanagh College I was given the opportunity to complete my PGCE and then an MBA. A PGCE is not a pre-requisite for teaching in Further Education, although this is changing, but it really did help me in terms of developing lesson plans and building effective relationships with students.

Are there alternative routes into the job?

Many of my colleagues in the FE sector join initially as part-time lecturing staff. Traditionally they will be working in perhaps a specialist area of industry and they then bring this knowledge and experience with them into the classroom.

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

With my role as head of faculty you really need a good breadth of experience in the FE sector. Over the years I have seen many changes to the curriculum, changes to the qualifications’ landscape and changes to the government departments overseeing the sector. As Campus Manager you need to be able to manage staff effectively, ensure that there isn’t an under or over-deployment of staff, you need a strong awareness of cost controls and be able to manage budgets. Good communications and negotiation skills are a must, you should be able to build strong relationships with others, and be able to manage performance both good performance and poor performance.

What does a typical day entail?

My typical day involves a lot of emails! I am generally on campus early in the morning, I get logged in, read through and respond to emails from staff and students and I then do a walk through the campus to make sure there are no issues emerging. Following that I can generally be found in one of the many daily virtual meetings that we are required to attend although we are starting to introduce face-to-face meetings again more frequently.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

The best part of my job is seeing the students progress with their studies and their personal development during their time with us. It is lovely to have them back on campus again and to see so many smiling faces. There is a great sense of camaraderie between staff and students in Further Education and I really enjoy the informal chats and finding out what the students are enjoying about their course and indeed our wonderful new campus building in Enniskillen.

The most challenging part of the job is probably the volume of paperwork and the number of emails that we have to work through but that is commonplace to most jobs nowadays.

Why is what you do important?

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet here, but the role of Head of Faculty is essential to oversee the management and delivery of the curriculum and ensure that both staff and students are adequately supported with the resources they need. The role of campus manager is equally important to ensure that the appropriate services are in place beyond the delivery of curriculum, for instance I work closely with our Student Services team who support students with careers guidance and information about their finances, health and general wellbeing.

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

If someone is thinking about a role in the FE or HE sector I would suggest they start by applying for a part-time lecturing position. This will give them a taster for the sector and help them evaluate whether or not it is suitable for them. I have also seen students applying for FE teaching roles after completing their degrees or post graduate students and often they don’t end up in those roles as industry experience is often deemed to be more important. I would say that potential applicants are better to spend some time in industry before they consider lecturing in the Further Education sector.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

Take your time and don’t panic.

Describe your ideal day off.

I enjoy walking so my ideal day off would revolve around a morning trip to the beach for a long walk and then lunch with friends. I would spend time at home and then catch up again with friends in the evening.

And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?

The key to any job search is doing your research – know what type of job you want, know about the company, ask for more information about the job or get as detailed a description of the job as you can.

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