What’s the most unexpected thing about your job?
The huge variety! I can go from very technical meetings working with other Automotive manufacturing companies and government on strategies for electrification training and then be in a classroom full of primary children taking part in one of our school events.
Did you have any role models when you were younger? What inspired you to do the job you’re doing now?
At school I didn't really have any role models and apart from musicians no one that I aspired to be. However as an apprentice I had many days working with the older experienced staff who taught me as much about life as they did work and technical skills. I truly believe I learned something from every one of the people I was assigned to even if some of them taught me to never treat people the way they did.
Up until the second year of my apprenticeship I had always struggled with maths and I just thought it was me. However in the second year the college maths teacher totally changed that. I went from someone who scraped a pass to someone who achieved two distinctions in maths and that was when I realised what a good teacher can do. I have tried to carry that on whenever I stand up to teach people in every subject area.
Any influential toys during childhood?
I am old, so table top games (Subuteo an ancient flick to kick football game) and outdoor activities were the key things for me until the launch of computer games which was in the later years of my secondary school life. The Atari and Vic 20 games machines became the focus for me in my mid teens. These games introduced me to the world of technology, it was not until 1987 (four years after I left school) that the first Amstrad desktop computers appeared in the factory that I worked, two machines in a company employing 700 staff.
Your favourite subjects at school?
I don’t think I can pick only one. The three topics I enjoyed equally (and this was as much to do with the quality of the teaching as it was the subject) were Metalwork, Biology and History. Metalwork had a huge range of practical skills, working on the forges, welding, and machining and hand skills. Biology taught by one of the best teachers in the school and history as I was interested in facts and dates.
I left school with 11 GCE’s grades B and C’s. As part of my apprenticeship I studied at a local technical college on day release and night classes and passed my Ordinary National Certificates and Higher National Certificates in engineering with a Production bias. I spectacularly failed at my attempt to do a part time Mechanical Engineering degree in 1989 and then didn’t study again for ten years. As part of my role in training in 2001 I completed a Level 4 NVQ in Learning and development and from that went on to do a Masters Degree in Human Resources which I achieved a Distinction in 2006. I am currently two years into a Professional Doctorate program where I am looking at the key influencing factors on career selection.
Your reason for choosing this career?
In the 1980’s in the North East there were almost set career paths - boys would join the Mining or ship yard industries or the armed forces and girls would go into the clothing industry, nursing or civil service.
Very few of my school friends studied A levels and from my year group of 127 children only 3 carried onto university. My older brother was an electrical apprentice in the coal mines but I didn’t want to work underground and when I left school the shipyards were in the last years leading to closure. In my final year of school I really did not like classroom academic study and couldn’t contemplate A-levels or university. I saw an apprenticeship as a good route for someone who enjoyed practical skills and had a reasonable academic level.
Tell me about your career path to date?
In 1983 I left school to join an Automotive company who made engine parts as a technical apprentice. I was playing guitar in bands at the time and although that was my dream the apprenticeship was my fall-back plan. When I came out of the apprenticeship in 1987 my boss persuaded me to move from the engineering side of the business into the manufacturing side and at age 20 I was given my first section of staff to look after. Around the same time Nissan had launched and were becoming a bigger business in the region , worrying about the long term future I left to join them in 1991. I was in charge of setting up and launching engine machining for the New Micra. I did this until 1993 when following a major car accident I ended up changing careers initially into Purchasing doing supplier development then in 1996 moving into training.
If you could have any job what would it be? How does it differ from what you’re doing?
My current job gives me a huge amount of satisfaction and the growth of the school engagement element and the opportunities this has created tick every box for me. I would still love to have been a full time musician playing in bands but only a very small handful of people end up making a career out of that.
Your advice to a young person considering a career in STEM?
Have your dreams and don’t be limited in what you want to achieve, but have a fall back plan in case those things don’t happen. Don’t accept that where you start and your background is any barrier to entry and progression. Hard work, perseverance and the right attitude can take you a very long way.