April 10, 2015, by Jackie Thompson

There’s More to Education Than Being a Teacher

By Vicky Lorriman, first year English student

As an arts student without a career goal, I’ve been told many times that teaching is the profession for me. Frankly, it’s something I’d rather avoid; but giving up entirely on the education sector could be a mistake and so I attended the Spotlight On… Participation Outreach event.

The event was targeted at students interested in working within the education sector, but without the stressful late-night marking guaranteed to come with teaching schoolchildren. Professionals were on-hand to give us exclusive advice on getting worthwhile experience through volunteering placements that are valued by employers, and aren’t just a CV add-on.

What kinds of careers are available in widening participation?

The four speakers presented diverse opportunities that blend education with other interests such as theatre and heritage:

  • Higher education – Katie Bonner and Mairi Stewart, Outreach Officers with the University’s Widening Participation team, work with primary school children and adults. They help enrich the school curriculum by encouraging children to consider higher education and support the employability and self-confidence of unemployed adults.
  • Theatre – Alex Moxon, Participation Officer at Nottingham Playhouse, works on producing theatre that is appropriate to specific groups in the local community for example, Club Encore for the over 55s and Little Playhouse for children aged between two and four years.
  • Heritage – Simon Brown, Artefact Loans Officer, works for Nottingham City Council’s Access Artefacts, which provides a loan service allowing the public access to collections of artefacts – this is particularly beneficial to local schools.
  • Arts – Alice Thickett, Youth Programme and two COLLABOR-8 volunteers, represented Nottingham Contemporary. The gallery runs workshops for all ages based on the principle that art is something you can get involved in whatever your background.

Tips about breaking into the industry from the professionals

  1. Just say ‘yes’! Get some experience by volunteering in your chosen area – this sector is competitive and if you don’t take the opportunity, someone else will.
  2. Don’t be exploited. While volunteering is great, you are working for free. Spend about three to six months in a placement – this is enough time to boost your transferable skills without it being a financial burden.
  3. Prepare to move after your degree. It is far easier to reach your dream job if you are ready to live in another city for a few years. Of course, a car and a driving licence are must-haves!
  4. Be inquisitive, especially at interview. Knowing what’s going on in education through the news and knowing the locations of local schools will help you to stand out. Prepare questions for the interviewer, perhaps about their department or your progression. Don’t forget to say hello to other team members – the interview doesn’t finish when you walk out of the interview room.
  5. When to say ‘no’. If a placement doesn’t feel right, don’t worry! Stop, and find another that suits you better. Volunteering for short periods of time is a fantastic way to try different types of educational settings, and work out what career you really want. One of the ways to find your niche in this industry is to work out what you don’t like, and go from there.

What will I do next?

Currently, I volunteer in a local primary school teaching literacy. But becoming a teacher is simply not what I want. The Spotlight On… Participation Outreach event has inspired me to pursue a placement educating children within a theatre. Education is about helping people to discover themselves, perhaps through the arts, and realise their dreams no matter their background.

Throughout the autumn and spring terms we organised around 40 Spotlight On… events covering a wide range of careers. We have three Spotlight On… events in the summer term:

  • Science and the Media on Wednesday 29 April
  • Heritage on Thursday 30 April
  • Wearable Technology on Thursday 7 May

If you’re interested in IT consultancy, feature writing, clinical research or advertising, marketing and PR, read the blog posts from these Spotlight On…events. We’re busy planning for the autumn term events programme and if you’d like to suggest a career area for the Spotlight On… series, please let us know – make a comment below, tweet or message us on Facebook.


Image source: Courtesy of Nottingham Playhouse

Posted in Choosing Your Career