From Apprentice to Course Leader: Rebecca Cuthbert shares her apprenticeship journey

12 February, 2021 4:24 pm

After graduating from Leeds Beckett University with a degree in sport, Rebecca Cuthbert could not have predicted that she would complete an apprenticeship.

She told us that she was not sure what she wanted to do after her degree but after travelling around Southeast Asia and Australia she discovered that she wanted to become a teacher.

After returning from her travels, she thought of completing a PGCE but missed the window to apply. It was at this point that she started looking for alternative options and came across the teaching apprenticeship at Keighley College.

What were you doing before this apprenticeship?

I went to university, where I studied sport. Once I finished my degree, I was not sure what I wanted to do or what path I was going to take. So I went travelling around Southeast Asia and Australia and I think it was during this period that I discovered what I wanted to do, and that was teaching.

When I got back, my initial thought was going down the traditional route and studying a PGCE. However, I only returned in August and was late to apply. As a result, I started looking at alternative options for the following year and came across the teaching apprenticeship at Keighley College.

I always wanted to teach college level rather than secondary level, so the programme was more appealing to me.

What attracted you to this particular apprenticeship?

The ability to work on the job. I had already done three years of studying at university, so I found the idea of getting on-the-job experience more appealing.

What are some of the highlights and challenges you have faced so far?

Being able to see how much of a difference I can make to other learners. I taught across a number of different groups during my apprenticeship. Now, as course leader, I have several students who were doing a Level 1 when I started and are now doing a Level 3 course and it is amazing to see and be part of that progression. Their mindset, focus and engagement with their work and everything that they are doing outside of college makes me feel so proud.

Since I started, I have seen an increase in girls taking up traditionally male-dominant courses. When I joined in the first year there were probably only four or five girls on public service courses and now numbers have gone up, showing a vast improvement in the promotion and understanding of the courses and sectors as a whole.

I was briefly in the police force during university. I was a special constable for the West Yorkshire Police, It was voluntary and I believe in many ways I have been able to draw on some of those experiences during open days.There was a point when I thought I may want to go down the police route or the sport route. I used to volunteer approximately 16 hours a month and it was eye-opening and it taught me how to deal with a lot of situations.

Was there a point where you realised working in the police force wasn’t for you?

I didn’t want to commit to shift work at such a young age. I was only 18 at the time and wanted a normal routine. I really enjoyed my time and learnt a lot. The skills and knowledge I got from that experience has helped me as a teacher today.

What did you learn or gain from your apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships never guarantee you a job at the end, so I was always aware of that but when I finished my apprenticeship in the summer, there was an opportunity for a teacher role and a course leader role in my department and I took the opportunity to apply for both roles.

I had the chance to see where the department was and where it is now and I think there is so much more I can contribute to the growth and development of it in the future. 

What areas do you think need growth and development?

From a public services perspective – it would be great to build our relationships with the community and integrate the work we do so that students can gain a broader understanding of the sector.

From a sports perspective, we have recently introduced a new sports qualification which allows learners to qualify as a sports coach. We also hope it will help us stand out from the competition.

Personally, I would like to go down the PE and teaching route. All being well next year, it would be fantastic to introduce some PE apprenticeship qualifications and focus on health, particularly with how it has impacted people this year from a wellbeing and mental health point of view.

What are the benefits of an apprenticeship?

The hands-on experience that apprentices get is invaluable. As an apprentice, you have the opportunity to understand the organisation from the ground up and it gives you insight into the entire job. You don’t miss out on anything and you get to see everything that goes on behind the scenes and in all aspects of the job that you need to deal with on a day-to-day basis. 

It is so much more than turning up to a classroom and delivering a lesson – the apprenticeship offers learners a chance to fully understand the job role.

From an employer perspective – it affords them the opportunity to shape learners and teach them the necessary skills required for a specific role and how it fits into the overall vision of the company. Another advantage of taking on an apprentice is that new people always bring fresh ideas and approaches to the table that can help a business grow.

Where do you see this apprenticeship leading you in the short and long term?

I want to establish myself as a course leader first and then long-term, become a programme manager of a curriculum area. From a development perspective, I want to do a master’s in education. I believe this will help me improve my understanding as an educator and become a better teacher.