Edwin Nganga teaches computer science, engineering and ICT at Leyton Sixth Form College. Edwin is the College's relationship manager for Pathways to Engineering on the Good Jobs Campaign. He has been overseeing the workshops and is currently supporting students on their journey with Atkins.
Could you tell us about your role at Leyton Sixth Form College?
I am a teacher of computing, engineering and ICT. I am also a tutor and I help them prepare their UCAS applications. Being a teacher allows me to help students get clearer about what they want to do. It is a major area in which students need help.
What was your career path and experience of getting a job?
I came to the UK from Africa, where I studied mechanical engineering. I decided to continue my studies here. After I arrived I realised that back home we had been using old methods of designing and that everyone was using computers here. I didn't have a lot of knowledge of these new methods so I decided to swap courses. I started studying computing. I never went back to studying mechanical engineering. I fell in love with computing. As I studied engineering in Kenya, I was allowed to teach engineering here. I also teach electronics, design and mathematics.
Sounds like an interesting pathway, was it difficult to make the transition?
It was very difficult as I didn't have very good computing skills and I couldn't design things using computers. Someone advised me to study computing to close that gap. After I did computing, I went to work for Hammersmith Hospital as a Network Analyst. I was assisting the Network Manager to monitor and build the network. While I was there someone said I would be a good teacher because I explain things very well and something clicked in my mind. I started exploring how I could become a teacher in computing. I liked being with young people and seeing where people end up so I enrolled for PGCE. When I finished my education, I started working at Leyton Sixth Form College part-time and six months later I was offered a permanent position. I have worked here for 12 years now.
Based on your experience, how would you describe a Good Job?
A good job is something that wakes you up energetic in the morning. A good job makes you feel like you are having an impact in this world. When I help young people understand something that was not clear to them before then I know I have done my job. Also, a good job is a job which makes me smile when I think about it. I like to do my job, I cannot see myself somewhere else. It feels great when I see students learning something different, outside their academic area, and in a different way.
You have been working with the students on the Good Jobs Campaign and you have been helping them a lot. What kind of feedback have you received so far from the students who are taking part in Pathways to Engineering?
I think it is very positive – they started as a group of 27 and they are all still on the programme. It is a lot to take on for the students and this high attendance tells you something. To keep young people in college for longer than they need to be is not easy. For us, the Good Jobs Campaign came at the right time. The skills the students get from Atkins is more than they can get in a classroom. We are benefiting a lot. It is also beneficial for the BTEC students who need placements. The students have been given two projects to design by Atkins and they are already coming to see me to learn new software to deliver them. They want to know more, they are showing initiative. Their learning is coming from them, not from us. Students are really enjoying it and they want their project to win the final pitch.
Are there other benefits that the programme is bringing to Leyton Sixth Form College and students?
Last year at Leyton Sixth Form College we started extra enrichment courses that students could do. However, it was difficult to get students to commit. It is different with the Good Jobs Campaign programmes – students are participating and stay at the workshops until the end. They are really committed. The soft skills that the students are getting through workshops with professionals from Atkins and JP Morgan and the exposure to different environments could not be provided by the college alone. The programme allows our College to expand. The Good Jobs Campaign Pathways to Engineering has been very successful.
Would you say that the Good Jobs Campaign could be a life-changing experience for students?
Definitely. I have done UCAS applications with different students for over 10 years and, when they tell me they want to do engineering, they only choose the strands of engineering that they know. Through Good Jobs Campaign our students have discovered a new way of looking at engineering. The students now come to me and tell me about new strands of engineering they would like to do, which do not include the popular choices. Thanks to the programme – they understand the areas more and are not choosing engineering for the sake of it. They are better advised. Atkins have put a lot of effort to explain the main issues and areas of work to them. It changes students’ lives.
Do you think that our Campaign could help to reduce the growing skills gap?
When companies get involved in such initiatives it helps to close the skills gap. It will allow the UK to create more highly skilled engineers rather than recruiting them from abroad. When the Good Jobs Campaign and Atkins came to us last year – I thought to myself – "This is it". We took a risk, without many resources, and the students love it. We are aiming to get more students involved next year. The students and their parents are aware of the greatness of this opportunity. I think by 2025 I will start meeting ex-students who will tell me that they took part in this initiative, that it changed their lives and they will be working for Atkins.
Is there anything you would like to add?
All I can say is that the Good Jobs Campaign could not have come at a better time. There are many changes happening in education at the moment and it is a challenge. We cannot afford to lose this opportunity. I am feeling very good as a teacher because I can show my students the websites of engineering companies like Atkins and I can tell them that this is real and they can be a part of it.