My career story: Kevin Dowson

SET member Kevin Dowson explains why he's so passionate about work-based learning and how more than 30 years' experience has enabled him to make a positive impact on the success rates of learners and apprentices. 

Kevin DowsonI currently work for myself since leaving the Adult Learning Inspectorate in 2007, where I was a lead inspector for work-based learning for four years, following 14 years as an associate. In April 2017 I will be joining Talent Training, an independent training provider based in the North-East as Quality and Curriculum Director.

What inspired me to enter the teacher and training profession

I came into education and training by accident, rather than design. After finishing my degree, I joined a national DIY chain as part of its graduate training programme, where I worked in various operational roles. I then moved into the training department to look after the training for staff ahead of its new store opening programme. During that time I became involved with the first NVQ in retail, writing the DIY sector optional units. Within that role, I become aware of the impact that good (and indeed poor) training could have on young people and decided it was an area I wanted to stay in, and it is a cause I have fought for ever since.

My career journey to this day   

My career has been long and varied. I have worked predominantly in the work-based learning sector for more than 30 years and have seen many changes over that time. I was an NVQ assessor before the NVQ assessment awards existed, (the Work Place Trainers Award was eventually replaced by the ‘D unit’ assessor awards). I also worked as both an internal and external verifier with City & Guilds, taking the role as Lead Verifier for the Distributive Sector covering all aspects of distribution, from retail and warehousing to funeral services.Additionally, I was a tutor in adult and community learning, a trainer in industry, a lecturer in college and an inspector of government-funded training for almost 20 years.

My career aspirations and ambitions for the future 

Cheesy as it sounds, it was always to make a difference.  And over the years, I think I have done that, not alone, but as part of the organisations I have worked with. When I first inspected work-based learning with what was then the Training Standards Council, success rates were usually under 20 per cent. Now we look at success rates of between 70 and 80 per cent.   

A couple of years ago, I went to an apprentice awards ceremony and had a chat with an apprentice who was coming to the end of a programme I had put together for a major mobile phone retailer. It almost moved me to tears when he told me the difference that the programme had made to his life and the very different and tragic path he was heading down before he started on the programme. That’s why I keep doing what I do.

My advice to those entering the teaching and training profession

Keep it simple. There are too many self-appointed experts who surround themselves with research and espouse it as definite evidence. Do the best you can and always keep an open mind and be prepared to adapt what you do to meet the needs of your learners.

One thing I would love to change is the way work-based learning and apprenticeships are still too often viewed as second class. I work primarily within the work-based learning sector and feel passionately about the value of apprenticeships to organisations and individuals, so I despair of those people, many in high office, who persist in deriding apprenticeships and often have no clue what they are really about.

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