A day in the life of a roofing lecturer – on top of the world

A day in the life - roofing lecturer

Steve Dowell Head of Department; Roofing Lecturer and Work- Based Assessor takes us through a typical day working in FE.

All my students are young apprentices who come to college one day a week as part of their CITB Level 2 NVQ.

My day

8.30am:  Meet apprentices in the cafe and catch up with them about their week and how their work is going. Then the group splits as some apprentices have to go to the main campus for maths and English; we take a mix of young people from GCSE A* to non-achievers, but they all have the right aptitude to learn in industry.

9.00am-10.00am : We spend an hour a week in the classroom completing the workbook with things like Health & Safety, manual handling and then we go to where I love them: the workshop.

10.00am-15.00pm: I teach how I was taught in industry and share what I learnt from my own grandfather who was a roofer. The process for laying out a roof has not changed for hundreds of years apart from the move from imperial to metric, and some changes to fixtures and fittings with the introduction of new British standards in February 2015. I love the exchange of knowledge with young apprentices, being able to pass on knowledge from my own experiences, sharing some of my own pitfalls as well as the things I've learnt along the way.

15.00pm-16.00pm: Every day ends around the whiteboard in the workshop when we go over what we've all learnt that day. All the apprentices work with the same product but will be doing something different depending on their stage of development.  This plenary session supports their write-ups for the NVQ. Teaching the write-ups was one of my proudest moments in my first year of teaching because, I know I can teach roofing but, to teach them to do write-ups - with everything they need to include - was a big achievement.

Being a Roofing Lecturer

When I first began teaching a year ago, I could see the classroom was where a lot of them struggled. I too found it difficult coming into a classroom after 25 years of working in the industry. In the workshop, I do lots of demonstrations on the rigs which is well-supported by verbal communication. This is how these young apprentices learn best; seeing and doing. If I gave them spec sheets before they see it and do it, they would look at me as if it was double Dutch. I usually show them a couple of times and then they're up there on the rigs doing it themselves. I never chastise an apprentice; it's about showing them and helping them feel confident in what they do. Confidence in construction is the most important thing; apprentices need to have confidence in what they do.

I can also embed maths and English in the workshop, for example, the process of laying a roof is all maths, so by the end of two years, they know square meterage, batten gauge, tile measurements. I also teach them about looking after themselves physically because of the demands on the body.

I think teaching my apprentices for a year is like a game of KerPlunk. I love seeing the “knowledge bomb”, the tipping point about 4 or 5 months into the course when they're not just listening anymore but asking me a lot of questions. That’s when I know I’ve got them!

I’ve never questioned why I’m a roofer, I love it, I see it as a vocation not a job and as a lecturer, I hope that I impart my enthusiasm to my apprentices.  Roofers do the job nobody else wants to do. It takes a very special kind of person to be a roofer. You’ve got to have a hardy, robust frame of mind. My apprentices understand that I have their best interests at heart. I want them to be the best they can be, this helps to enthuse them and above all they’ll have a great career doing something they love and earn a great salary while they’re at it. I know some young roofers who are earning £50K a year since qualifying.

I first came to the college as an assessor, and then I was approached by the college to be a lecturer. Roofing is what I love and my apprentices suck it out of me like a sponge. Teaching is very different to roofing and by the end of the year I feel drained of all energy but then I get to reset in July ready for September. I am training the roofers of the future and I want them to be the best!

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