Interview with Mechanical Engineering Lecturer – Ellie Bennett
The SET for Teaching Success Programme has propelled Ellie Bennett into a promising teaching career, working as a Civil Engineering Lecturer at Stephenson College.
This creates a completely new career path for Ellie, who previously worked as a designer. Ellie finds her role extremely fulfilling and has been working at the College for nearly two years.
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’ve always enjoyed learning and sharing my knowledge with others. Teaching in Further Education can be challenging and requires applied innovation. I find the classroom is a dynamic environment in which I never get bored!
The SET for Teaching Success programme appealed to me because it is designed for lecturers who work within the engineering sector.
2- What do you like about teaching in Further Education?
By the time students enter Further Education, I feel they have already gained some experience in learning and are often more focused. However, it is still early enough in their academic journey to make a real difference to their approach. I enjoy helping students to break down their pre-conceived ideas, expand their horizons and examine problems from a multi-disciplinary approach.
3- What inspired you to want to teach an engineering subject?
I enjoy the process of problem-solving and I wanted to share that experience with others. Humans are often in a rush to find a solution. It requires a certain level of confidence and self-awareness to spend precious time and resources on defining the problem without rushing ahead to a solution. Once I learned how to solve a problem well, it was enabled me develop skills for life. Teaching engineering helps me to pass on these valuable skills to others.
As a designer, my favourite part of teaching engineering is that moment when I can get a student to open their eyes and see the innovation around them and understand the reasons why the built environment is the way it is and how it impacts on communities.
4- What have been the benefits so far from the SET for Teaching Success Programme?
The greatest benefit to me has been an increase in my confidence to try new and innovative techniques in the classroom. The SET programme has enabled me to become much more confident in putting into practice fresh ideas. My classes are fun and my students seem happier, as well as more capable and motivated to learn.
I’ve noticed that I’m more confident in being in control of the classroom. This results in more focused students that pay attention to what is going on.
5- What does it mean to you to be a female working in what seems to be a male dominated industry?
I try to not make it an issue because it shouldn’t be. A good engineer is a good engineer, no matter their gender. I do want to see more women working within the engineering sector and I feel like I am in a good place to support women entering the industry.
It is noteworthy that, in my experience, most female students within engineering (including myself), have close friends and family within the sector. Many girls are missing out on amazing opportunities, perhaps because they are not aware of the vast range of careers available within engineering.
6- What advice would you give to any woman interested in getting into engineering?
Do it! There are so many routes into engineering now from apprenticeships to traditional degrees. If you are one of those individuals who do not know what kind of career to aim for, engineering would be a great start. You will learn so many transferable skills that would benefit any industry.
There are a lot of misconceptions about engineering. People think the work is dirty and a lot of travelling is involved. For some jobs, this is true. But it’s a huge sector with many opportunities. Engineering jobs are generally better paid that others and now with the increased popularity in digital collaboration, there is greater flexibility in working hours and working from home.
The engineering industry will benefit from more women engineers. We desperately need your help! Please join us!
7- Do you have any future plans and aspirations re. your career or interest in engineering?
I’m currently completing my MSc in BIM (Building Information Modelling) and Integrated Design via distance learning at the University of Salford. I hope to continue my studies and specialise in teaching BIM from Level 3 upwards.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to get involved in visiting schools to promote careers in engineering. I value this and want to make the most of every chance to present the engineering industry to school girls who may not otherwise know it even exists.
For more information about the SET for Teaching Success Programme, please visit set.emfec.co.uk