Karen Kaya is a full time tutor in hairdressing, make up and barbering. She works for Stockport College in North West England, the college in which she learnt her trade years earlier. As well as teaching Karen runs her own hairdressing business and is involved in a variety of industry organisations and initiatives.
Can you tell us a little about your current role in FE?
Currently I teach hairdressing, media makeup and barbering at all levels at Stockport College, which I love. But my role involves a lot more than just teaching! I’m part of the Greater Manchester Open College Network, and liaise with colleges across the region on matters relating to my field. I’m also a lead Internal Verifier (IV) which means I spend time observing lessons, checking marking, meeting with external examiners and generally supporting staff. I spend 21.5 hours of my working week in ‘contact time’ in the classroom. The rest of my time is split between my other responsibilities and related activities, such as lesson planning, marking and paperwork. It’s very diverse and interesting, not to mention busy!
What are your key interests?
From the age of 13 I wanted to be a hairdresser, so I’ve always been committed to this sector. As my knowledge and skills have grown I’ve taken on extra responsibilities to keep myself up to date. For example, with the college’s support I’ve judged competitions including OMC Hairworld, and I act as a delegate for international industry organisations. I’ve got a real passion for my work.
Another key interest is supporting my students to be aspirational. When I started out as a hairdressing student I could not have imagined that I was going to go on to achieve so much, and I use my story as a tool to motivate. I want to make my students aware that it is possible to aim high and succeed.
Do you have any other roles or responsibilities?
I’m a safeguarding champion in the college, which is a role I volunteered for. This means I provide support and guidance should any issues arise within leisure services. I drive the college minibus and recently drive 25 students down to ExCel London to attend an event. I’m a lead employability trainer, which includes facilitating enrichment events. I get local businesses involved. This is designed to help students prepare for work and develop the soft skills they’ll need in industry.
Can you tell us about your experience in FE?
I’ve worked in Further Education for 15/16 years now, after running my own business (which I still do). FE has given me the opportunity to give something back, work with young people and use all the skills and knowledge I’ve developed. It has been incredibly fulfilling. The college have supported my ideas and development, and so many great opportunities have come my way. There is plenty of CPD available which I’ve made the most of. It’s been great to work with a diverse student population too.
How do you find the FE sector in terms of working culture?
It’s very different to the small business environment, so you have to accept a different working style. Decisions can take time. I’m a small cog in a big wheel. We’ve had a lot of changes to manage and of course there are times when we struggle, but overall the Health and Beauty department are amazing! We’re a real team, and that echoes the college ethos. I have great working relationships with other departments too. And because we’ve dealt with change before we’ve become very resilient. I’m grateful that management are open and transparent, it’s not just a college; it’s a community. The fact that we’ve coped with change and still support our students onto great things is extremely rewarding.
Do you face any particular challenges?
From year to year the students are getting younger! I’m mindful of age and how that might impact on my work, although as a grade one ‘outstanding’ lecturer it hasn’t so far. The only real challenge would be if I stopped enjoying my job. I have a real passion for what I do, I find it so inspiring. I want to retain that passion.
Have you got any advice for other academics/professionals planning to work in FE?
You’ll need excellent time management skills! The job is vast and you’ll develop flexibility. To succeed you’ll have to share, to work as part of a team. Be part of the community. Visit local colleges – I walked into Stockport College 15 years ago and never looked back. Be prepared to work hard but know that you will get support along the way.
What are the top three reasons you chose to work for your current institution?
Firstly because I was a student here originally and live locally, so it makes sense to ‘give back’. I’ve come full circle. I was able to work part time which suited my circumstances but have progressed to full time as things changed. Also the holidays are good! But seriously, the college has given me the opportunity to make a difference, which is what it’s all about.