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Share Your Skills: How Part-Time FE Teaching can Support the Construction Skills Pipeline

Posted: 4th April 2024

Nikki Carthy

Degree Apprenticeship Curriculum Manager

Leeds College of Building

For most of my career in the construction sector, teaching in Further Education (FE) wasn’t on my radar, and I never set out to become a teacher. I knew that FE was an important training route for the sector, but I hadn’t realised that teaching was something available to me, or that I was qualified for.

I love working in construction, and I worked in industry for 16 years. I started out initially as a quantity surveyor (QS) for a major construction company, then as a QS/estimator for a joinery business. While working as a QS, I had an apprentice who was being monitored by a National Vocational Qualification assessor. I got chatting to the assessor, who spoke passionately about her experiences working in FE, and how exciting it can be. She also mentioned that Leeds College of Building was recruiting for new teachers, and that I might be a good fit.

At first, I thought it seemed too daunting; I had no teaching experience and didn’t know where to start. But once I read the information she shared about the programme and how to apply to become a further education teacher, my journey to share my skills with the next generation went really smoothly.

I joined the College in 2017, teaching programmes in construction, the built environment, and civil engineering. You don’t always need prior teaching qualifications or an academic degree to start teaching in FE, so I was able to complete my teacher training on the job. I loved teaching in FE from the day I started, and I’ve never looked back. I am hands-on, shaping the next generation of skilled and professional employees. What could be more important?

FE teaching has a huge focus on helping students to develop hands on, practical and industry skills. This is why industry experience is so valuable as a further education teacher. My students value my ability to speak from experience, and it’s great to be able to give them meaningful advice which will set them up for the future. My ability to provide industry-related examples helps to bring the textbooks and theory to life. For example, if I am teaching measurement, I can relate it to a practical example, like internal finishes or excavations. It helps the students visualise the work much more clearly.

I also love having the opportunity to be a mentor and role model for young women in construction. We still work in an industry that is dominated by men, so I’m always glad that as a teacher, I can support young women in my classroom, while also getting involved in things like International Women’s Week events. A couple of years ago I looked at the experiences of young women in the construction industry, interviewing students to hear what they had to say. I was glad to learn that their experiences, like mine, were largely positive.

For me the biggest surprise has been how much I am still continuing to learn. I want to be the best possible teacher I can, so continuing to grow my own knowledge allows me to impart that knowledge on to the students. My background is in building construction as opposed to civil engineering or highways, but the students I teach specialise in different subjects, so I learn from them along the way.

This has inspired me to take on a new challenge, and in 2023 I graduated with a master’s in construction law and dispute resolution from Leeds Beckett University. I always wanted to do a master’s but there was never a good time – until now. I tell my students how hard it is to come back to learning after taking a break, but I’m so glad I’ve done it. Teaching in FE can be really flexible, which has given me the freedom to go back to university, work at the College, and also be a mum of two!

For some of my colleagues, this flexibility has also allowed them to continue to work in industry. For their employers, having staff as FE teachers provides opportunities to make contacts in FE providers, influence the curriculum, and develop the talent pipeline in line with the needs of industry. I would encourage employers to support their staff to teach part time in FE - teachers who have up-to-date experience of their industry can ensure learners in your area are suitably trained to meet your needs as employers.

In 2021 I was also seconded into a position as the college’s degree apprenticeship development curriculum manager, a role which I did alongside FE teaching. I’ve worked with apprentices my entire career, and apprenticeships are such an important way to foster the skills needed for the long-term health of the industry.

Sharing my skills with the next generation is the best career move I’ve ever made. Teaching gave me a different perspective, on an industry that I was already passionate about, and the challenge of it continues to appeal to me. In my mind, I still get to do what I trained to do but in a different, more exciting way. I love everything about my job! Your skills are more valuable than you realise. If you have relevant experience working in industry, you can start teaching in FE with no formal teaching qualifications.

To find out how you can change lives without changing careers, head to

Nikki Carthy

Degree Apprenticeship Curriculum Manager

Leeds College of Building

Nikki Carthy began her career as a Quantity Surveyor, and worked in the construction industry for 16 years, before she began teaching at the Leeds College of Building in 2017. She is passionate about the industry and sharing her skills with the next generation.