Empowering the Freelance Economy

Could part-time STEM freelancers be the answer to the UK teaching recruitment crisis ?

Mark Jobling left his tech role in the banking sector to teach biology to teenagers.
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Seasoned professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields have long been eyed as potential saviours of the teacher shortage. With their expertise and real-world experience, they represent a desirable talent pool for cash-strapped schools. However, a recent government decision in England is casting a shadow on the viability of this career switch or even as a part-time profession.

The UK’s Department for Education’s decision to scrap funding for Now Teach, a government-funded charity that facilitated career transitions into teaching specifically for older adults, has sparked outrage.

Former Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway, who left journalism to retrain as a maths teacher and set up the Now Teach charity seven years ago, said she was “bitterly disappointed” by the decision.

Kellaway said in a Financial Times article, “We’re in the middle of a recruitment crisis… It’s really important that we don’t go under.” This sentiment is echoed by educators across England, who are grappling with a significant number of vacant teaching positions.

Why are people making a career switch to teaching?

Mark Jobling left his tech role in the banking sector to teach biology to teenagers. His advice to anyone considering the move into teaching? “Change is a great thing.”

“It’s really reinvigorating and can be good for your soul and your sanity to do something new from scratch,” says Jobling. “But you’ve got to be aware that it’s really hard work. It’s not an easy cop-out to leave the world of business – you’ve got to feel that you’d be a good teacher. I always had that itch and still don’t know whether I’m right, but it’s been a really positive experience so far.

Read more about his experience and others and why he thinks doing something new is good for the soul.


For STEM freelancers contemplating a switch to education, is the dream dead? Not necessarily, but the path has become more uncertain. Here’s a breakdown of the challenges and potential rewards:

Challenges:

Funding Cuts: The Now Teach situation highlights a potential lack of government support for alternative teacher recruitment channels. This could translate to fewer resources and incentives for career changers.

Salary: STEM freelancers often command high salaries in the private sector. Public school teaching salaries, while competitive with other graduate professions, might be a significant pay cut.

Workload: Teaching is a demanding profession with long hours and significant administrative burdens. Balancing these with adjusting to a new career path can be overwhelming.

Rewards:

Job Security: While teacher shortages persist, qualified educators are likely to have greater job security compared to the often-volatile freelance market.

Impact: The opportunity to shape young minds and nurture future generations of STEM professionals can be incredibly rewarding, especially if you can see your efforts come through in classroom discussions and results.

Work-Life Balance: Teaching schedules often offer summers and holidays off, potentially leading to a better work-life balance than some freelance gigs.

The Verdict:

The decision for STEM freelancers is ultimately personal. While the Now Teach funding cut is disheartening, there are still pathways into teaching, such as alternative certification programmes.

Those considering the switch or a part-time position should carefully weigh the potential salary decrease against the long-term security and societal impact of a teaching career.

Furthermore, conducting research into specific school districts and their support for new educators is crucial. Schools with strong mentorship programs and competitive salaries can significantly ease the transition for career changers.

The teaching profession undoubtedly needs an influx of talent, and STEM expertise is especially valuable. While the road may be a little bumpier in the wake of funding cuts, the intrinsic rewards and societal impact of teaching remain strong incentives for passionate individuals seeking a fulfilling career change.

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