Interview with Mechanical Engineering Lecturer – Rachel Manoharan
The SET for Teaching Success Programme has enabled 25 year-old Rachel Manoharan to start her exciting teaching career, working as a Mechanical Engineering Lecturer at Derby College. Rachel finds her role extremely rewarding and has been working at the College for just over a year.
When she first started, the College helped her gain her Level 3 qualification in Education and Training and she is currently studying a Level 5 Certificate in Education.
We asked her a series of questions to find out about her journey and how the programme has benefited her.
1- Why did you choose to teach in Further Education and work with the SET for Teaching Success programme?
I believe that Further Education is the genuine start of the formative years. It moulds and shapes you in the subject where your true passions and interests belong. The SET for Teaching Success programme was introduced to myself and my colleagues by our head of department. SET has been incredibly instrumental on my journey and training as a lecturer in Further and Higher Education. SET has been resourceful and diligent in providing not only training materials but also organised events where teachers such as myself can network and share with other teachers from other colleges.
2- What do you like about teaching in Further Education?
Teaching in both Further and Higher Education gives you that academic flexibility for promoting higher skills such as critical thinking. I enjoy teaching my students to develop these skills and to encourage them to analyse their subject knowledge and research. I also enjoy challenging my students and have academic discussions with them as they have so many interesting views and ideas that always need to be heard.
Further Education (and Higher Education) is also a time and place where students are no longer considered children and are growing up as adults. To see my students grow up in a small amount of time is very moving and I feel proud to see these unique and inspirational young men and women flourish not just in their education, but also in their employability skills and their individual personalities. And when they leave college for a job, apprenticeship or to attend university, it makes all those long days of work truly worth it.
3- What inspired you to want to teach an engineering subject?
As an engineer, you are always advised to work in industry. I struggled to find a job in industry due to personal reasons. I met my previous manager at a job fair and he asked me if I ever considered a career in teaching. I had taught previously through volunteering with STEM programmes in schools but never really considered it before as a full-time career. Two weeks after finishing my Masters degree, the tables turned and I went from being a student to being a teacher.
Teaching completely changed my life. At first, I couldn’t really see myself as a teacher and I didn’t even know if I was suited to be one. But now I can’t really see myself as anything else. It’s so wonderful to see these young people take an interest in engineering and want to pursue a career in it. And right from the start, my students are, and always have been, my inspiration to why I teach engineering.
4- What have been the benefits so far from the SET for Teaching Success Programme?
The SET for Teaching Success Programme has been very supportive for my role as a teacher, especially since I had not taught before. Being able to network with so many different people from the education sector has been very beneficial. We learn a lot from each other and it’s always nice to know that other teachers go through the same hurdles and difficulties that I face and to learn of how they overcome their problems. The invited speakers at events are so knowledgeable and informative that all you want to do is go back to your classroom and experiment with new ideas that you have just learnt.
5- What does it mean to you to be a female working in what seems to be a male dominated industry?
It is so refreshing and exhilarating to see women breaking barriers from every corner and challenging today’s image of a stereotypical engineer. Engineers see the world differently from everyone else and it’s revolutionary to see both men and women in engineering, working together to develop solutions in our ever changing world. There are still those that doubt the position and capabilities of women in engineering but we are here to stay, to change and to transform the way the world works. Women in engineering are changing history. I am changing history. And my female students are also changing history.
6- What advice would you give to any woman interested in getting into engineering?
Never be afraid to fly, but most importantly never be afraid to fall.
7- Do you have any future plans and aspirations re. your career or interest in engineering?
I want to continue my career as a lecturer and hopefully move into a university role. I would also like to take time for myself to do a PhD and satisfy my academic curiosity. I do hope I get the opportunity to work in industry, no matter how short-term, but I am rather happy and feel rewarded training the engineers of tomorrow.
For more information about the SET for Teaching Success Programme, please visit set.emfec.co.uk