Case Study: Ben Bryant, Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering

Ben Bryant

What is your current role?

Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, Design and Manufacture

What are your key interests?

Mainly technical - anything I can take apart and put back together. 3D printing is a big interest of mine, as well as manufacturing and new tech. My side interests are cars and all things automotive, relating to my previous studies.

What about your qualifications?

Level 3 Automotive, an NVQ in Shipment and Replacement, a degree in Mechanical Design and Manufacturing, as well as an NVQ 4 in Additive Manufacturing and Streamlining, which involves 3D printing, advanced robotics and streamline manufacturing. I’m currently nearing the end of a two-year part-time Diploma in Education and Training.

Do you have any other roles or responsibilities?

As well as being a course tutor, I’m responsible for the level 3 apprenticeship on the mechanical side, I run the 3D printing department and am NVQ assessor for Design and Computational Numerical Control (CNC).

What prompted your decision to move into FE?

I was doing a Foundation Degree at the college, in my final year, and we were all asked to do a presentation on our research. I designed a practical activity based on my dissertation, which focussed on wind farms, and delivered this to five different groups of students. My lecturer (now my boss) liked my teaching style and asked me if I would be interested in a part-time contract. I went for it and managed to combine this with the final year of my degree, including a work placement in 3D printing. I originally taught around 12 hours a week, then this was formalised into a .5 Trainer Facilitator contract. I was then appointed .5 lecturer and I now teach full time.

How does your current job differ from other roles/experiences you have had?

When I worked as a mechanic, I worked 9-5. In FE, you can work longer hours but in a compact 9-month schedule. In Engineering, you go in, adapt to situations, but then you leave it behind at work. With FE, you need to reset each year as you’ve got completely different learners again and where something might work in one lesson, it might not work with a different group in another lesson.

What is working in the FE sector like?

As an engineer, I see the students as a product that you’re trying to get from start to finish but the product talks back to you, they’ve got their own feelings, their own situations. So, what you’re trying to run is like a manufacturing line but they’re feeding back on the process the whole time, which makes it a lot more challenging, but a good kind of challenging.

How has working in FE helped your career?

In essence, I think I know my subject in greater detail than when I was a student. I’ve had to go into areas that I wouldn’t necessarily have gone into. I’ve definitely got broader horizons within the field.

What do you enjoy most about your job in FE?

It’s got to be the students - getting them from a place of low confidence, then taking a step back, watching them flourish and, ultimately, get a job.

Have you got any advice for anyone interested in a similar career in FE?

Be patient. I don’t think anyone has the answer to everything from the word go. I’m in my 4th year now, and I think that in the first year you’re finding your feet, the second you’re developing, and the third you’re developing again. You can always measure your development through your experience. I think that’s another reason why I enjoy it, it’s always changing, - you always having to keep progressing and pushing forward.

What are three reasons you chose to work for your current institution?

It’s local to me, I was a student here. So, I knew how the system worked and when I was asked to start teaching here, I wanted to give it a try.

Since I’ve been here I’ve seen a lot of growth in the Engineering department, we’ve got more students, a new building in the offing and we have become a showcase area, rather than being hidden away in a shed.

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