Lecturer in Electrical Intallation
North West Regional College, Limavady Campus
It’s my job to get the best I can from every student.
‘My job requires me to get the best from each student, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach you can take — each student needs support in different ways, so I have to adapt my teaching methods depending on the students we work with each year,’ says Keith.
What does your job entail?
I teach electrical installation to young people aged between 16 and 24 at NWRC’s Greystone Centre in Limavady.
I mentor them through the various levels of qualifications, including Training for Success, Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships.
It takes four years to fully complete an electrical apprenticeship, and I work with approximately 50 students per year.
The students require practical skills training and theory in college, as well as on-the-job experience to become fully qualified.
Is it 9-5?
Between 9am — 5pm Monday to Friday I will be found completing my normal teaching and assessment duties.
However, my involvement with skills competitions means that I can often be found in the workshops in the evenings, at weekends, and even outside term-time, coaching and mentoring students in preparation for forthcoming competitions.
When you find such talented trainees like our latest gold medal winning student, Arron McCool, who are prepared to give up their free time to devote to extra training, you don’t mind committing those extra hours to help them succeed.
My colleagues and I that work with students preparing for competitions are very grateful for the support that North West Regional College provides for this.
Through a Curriculum Project, those involved in mentoring for competitions are provided with some financial support, which is an acknowledgement of our commitment to helping our trainees achieve their potential.
How did you get into this line of work?
I was working in the industry, but decided that I’d like to get into teaching.
I went back to college to study higher level qualifications, which put me in a position to be able to teach in the FE sector.
I was delighted to join the college at a time when investment had been placed in training facilities in Limavady — we are very lucky to have the resources we have in the Greystone Centre, as the students have access to industry-standard facilities, which ensures they are well-equipped when they get into the workplace.
Outline your career to date?
I am a fully qualified lecturer with experience in the further education sector and electrical industry environments.
During my time in industry I held roles at various levels, through which I acquired skills including working with customers, leading and overseeing construction teams as well as design, implementation and commissioning of industry projects.
I make a point of sharing my industry experiences with my students as an integral part of their training, as it helps to prepare them for what they will be expected to undertake.
I very often notice a change in the students after they been on work placement — they’ll come back to me to tell me they’ve had the same experiences I’ve described to them, and they respect the training they are receiving more because they know you’ve been there yourself.
Tell us about your qualifications/training.
I qualified as an electrician in 1994 and worked for almost a decade — which I thoroughly enjoyed.
During this time I decided to complete a Higher National Certificate in electrical and electronic engineering, which allowed me to apply for a position within further education.
When I was in post I went on to achieve a postgraduate diploma in further and higher education at the University of Ulster.
I am also involved in continuous professional development on an ongoing basis within NWRC, which is so important to ensure that we maintain our own practical skills, and stay informed with industry regulations.
What qualities are required for your job — personal and professional?
In order to deliver the range of qualifications to so many students, it takes good organisational skills and of course you need to be able to communicate well with young people.
My job requires me to get the best from each student, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach you can take — each student needs support in different ways, so I have to adapt my teaching methods depending on the students we work with each year.
As well as practical qualifications, we need to develop trust and a good working relationship with our students, especially as they will be with us for four years.
As lecturers we also have a pastoral care role — I hope that each of my students knows they can talk to me about any issues that they may be facing.
What are the biggest challenges and rewards of your work?
I find the biggest challenge I face is motivating students to aspire to excellence in all that they do — many do not realise the potential they have and it can be challenging to help them discover it.
Once they do, we see the reward, as they achieve academically and grow in confidence.
It is also so rewarding to see local young people winning regional and national awards.
I have been very lucky to have naturally talented students on the course in the past number of years, and I can tell within their first few weeks whether they will be suitable for skills competition, if they are driven and eager to learn, and if they are willing to put in the additional training it takes to win at this level.
Arron McCool, who picked up the gold medal at the UK Skills Show, is just 17, and was competing against apprentices in their 30s and 40s.
I felt a great sense of pride as he was announced as the winner — he thoroughly deserved this recognition and I am hopeful he will get the chance to compete at WorldSkills in Brazil 2015.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to relax and spend time with my family.