Chris is a Team Leader at University Technical College Lancashire which specialises in Engineering and Construction. Opened in August 2013, it is the first UTC in East Lancashire and he is one of the first members of staff to be appointed.
Chris explains the journey from engineer to running his own successful joinery business, to finally arriving at University Technical College Lancashire to a teaching environment he had unknowingly been searching for his entire career:
"I’ve always had a passion for being creative and making things. I can remember building my first computer with my Dad. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do when I left school so I had a variety of jobs which included an engineering apprenticeship; this was followed by a course in radar and radio telecommunications and to round it all off I became a time served joiner."
With such a varied early career, Chris described how he came into teaching:
"It was around the time I was working for what was then known as British Telecom as an engineer. I’d heard through a friend about a course in design and technology at the University of Leeds which involved design, using technology and engineering and working with a range of materials. It involved all the things I’d been really interested in."
Gaining a first class honours in his degree, Chris was head hunted by one of the country’s top grammar schools. He remained there for two years when he left teaching to start up his own joinery business. Following a motorbike accident, he had to sell his business and returned to teaching as a Head of Department in a school in Bradford:
"At that time a lot of schools had got rid of their engineering machinery – I was lucky; this school had not gone down that route, so I introduced GCSE Engineering and it became very successful. Students who were predicted to get ‘D’ and ‘E’ grades were getting ‘A’ and B’ grades."
Although running a successful department, Chris was discontent with both the status of the subject in his school and the support for his students who wanted to pursue a career in engineering:
"The economy in Bradford was changing and there was a demand for the type of student who had engineering skills. I knew this because I sat on a lot of engineering network meetings to keep my finger on what was going on. I sent a few students for engineering apprenticeships but that was the best I could do because I was on my own trying to do this."
It was about this time that Chris heard about the new UTC which would be opening in Burnley:
"I had recognised there needed to be some way of bridging the gap between school and work – that took students and focused them on a technical area which offered them a pathway into employment. When I heard about the UTC I was really excited. It offered exactly what I felt my existing school couldn’t; a real workplace environment working closely with local companies which provided that missing pathway into employment."
Chris was asked what opportunities has working at a UTC provided which would not have been in another school or college:
"In most schools teachers don’t know what each other are doing. The geography teacher won’t know what’s happening in science or maths. In this UTC, the topics for the thematic projects are provided by local companies and each teacher knows what the project is and links their teaching to match. This allows the students to bring in their learning from physics, maths, 3D CAD and engineering making it more meaningful by providing the links which pulls their education together."
Chris was also full of praise for his colleagues:
"I get huge job satisfaction from working with colleagues who are consistently striving for the same thing. I’ve never seen such commitment to working together across a body of staff as I have seen here – I absolutely love it!"