Stuart filled his time with freelance work, until a conversation with his brother led him to consider a new vocation. “My brother had been in the Royal Air Force but was now teaching the skills he’d used in his career, such as aeronautics and electronics. It made me think that I could also teach,” says Stuart. “I’d really enjoyed looking after our student work experience placements, and as my degree had been in industrial design – working with different materials such as wood and metal – I knew I had plenty of knowledge to pass on.”
Stuart spoke to Now Teach, a charity which supports people changing careers to become teachers. He then began to retrain, undertaking a six-week course for extra skills. The funded course took place once a week in schools across Essex, where Stuart lives, and he got involved in everything from product design to cookery to textiles. Stuart then started studying for his PGCE qualification and, alongside this, taught at a local secondary school. He says: “I was completely at sea when I started and wracked with self-doubt. But you learn from your mistakes, and you pick yourself up. I think it would have been easier if I’d started as a teaching assistant, but I threw myself in at the deep end.”
However, Stuart has no regrets. He adds: “Starting to teach was like a breath of fresh air for me. Having been out of work for a while, I was worried my brain was starting to stagnate, but teaching really blew away the cobwebs. “No day is ever the same; even if you’re teaching the same thing, the students are always different and react differently. Adam Thorne, headteacher at Stuart’s school, says: “It’s important that children interact with a range of different aged teachers. When Stuart teaches design and technology, he creates a strong link with industry and students can see how their lesson relates to the real world. “And it’s not just teachers we value - over 50s coming into schools in a variety of roles bring so much expertise.” Stuart wants to encourage others thinking about changing careers to take the leap too. He adds: “Being made redundant can feel like a setback, but don’t be afraid to retrain and choose the right thing for you.