From apprentice to tutor: Jade engineers a return to college

Published: January 5, 2022

Jade Richards has seen her Telford College journey go full circle – from A levels and an apprenticeship, to a new role as part of the team of engineering tutors.

The former Charlton School student says she is loving the chance to pass on some of the skills she learned at the college to a new generation.

jade richards | Engineering | Telford College

Jade Richards, the former Telford College student who is now one of the engineering tutors

After completing A levels in economics, government and politics, and maths at the college’s former King Street campus, Jade took up a work placement as a veterinary nurse.

But she said: “I quickly realised this was not the career for me. It left me at a bit of a dead end, so I thought back to what I enjoyed most at school – which was science and maths.”

She decided to sign up for a level two engineering apprenticeship with manufacturing company Saint-Gobain in Ketley, through Telford College.

“I originally started on a four-year contract to study Performing Engineering Operations, then my level two qualification, then two years of my level three,” she said..

“I ended up completing both my PEO and level 2 in my first year, so I completed my level three qualification and the first year of an HNC in engineering.”

At the end of her four-year contract, Saint Gobain kept Jade on to complete her HND in engineering, again studying through Telford College.

In total, she spent nine happy years with the company, during which time she completed other qualifications such as 17th edition and basic wheels.

She said: “After I had my children, I couldn’t really accommodate being a shift engineer on top of family life, so I left the company on good terms.

“I then got a job as a maths facilitator on a fixed-term contract at Telford College. I didn’t have any teaching qualifications or experience teaching, so the facilitator role was perfect for gaining this.

“Quite early on in the role, I was given whole classes to cover and loved it. It gave me a great insight into a teaching career.”

Jade completed an education and teaching qualification alongside her facilitator contract, which she said cemented her ambition to become a full-time teacher.

And when an engineering lecturer’s post became vacant at Telford College in the autumn, she applied and got the job.

“In hindsight, I’m glad it took so long for me to get the role,” she said. “I managed to work in so many areas of the department; it’s set up really well and I’m surrounded by a really supportive team.

“I chose the apprenticeship route in the first place because I liked the idea of training alongside receiving a wage. I was 19 at the time, so this was a great appeal.

“I also made some great friends and connections in my time at the company, and would thoroughly recommend the apprenticeship route. I was able to support myself whilst gaining invaluable knowledge and a great insight into the engineering industry.

“Going from a school environment straight into working in an engineering team was very overwhelming, so getting eased in on my apprenticeship was so helpful.

“Things I learnt in college were taken on board if I recommended them – Saint-Gobain respected my position in the company and listened to what I had to say.”

She added: “I liked getting to see things that I learnt in college in practice in a workplace environment. I didn’t need to rely on the internet to look up how things are done, because I got to see them in real time.

“My apprenticeship and other higher education were a real eye opener and a lifechanging route to take. You get a brilliant start to your career, alongside a qualification so you have something to show for it.

“Even though I am no longer a maintenance shift engineer, I’m still in the industry by teaching the engineers of the future. It’s as though I’ve come full circle.”

Jade revealed another reason why she is delighted to be back at the college: “I will always have a soft spot for Telford College, as I met my now husband in my first year of my apprenticeship.”