Retraining to be a teacher with employer sponsorship

The Transition to Teaching programme was set up in July 2008 to encourage qualified scientists from the ‘real world’ of industry to become teachers. Both sides of the partnership – education and business – stand to benefit.

The employer deal
Mark Wakefield, corporate social responsibility at IBM.

“Many companies that rely on a big base of scientists are very concerned about the dwindling numbers of students who are coming out of the education system with science qualifications”, says “Our participation is a crucial way of making our business sustainable.”

“IBM’s UK programme is based on a sister scheme in the US, which is also relatively new, but already has 100 employees who are either being retrained or are fulltime teachers in schools.”

IBM agrees to pay 25% of an employee’s salary for two years while they undertake qualification. If an employee prefers to continue working fulltime, they would also support that and allow the two secondments of twelve weeks each to fulfil work experience placements.  

On top of this the employee/student is eligible for the normal local authority bursary of £9,000 for teachers of shortage science subjects.

Once the employee has qualified, they have a three month ‘safety net’ to decide whether teaching is really for them or whether they’re better off in the corporate world. “Even if they return, we think they return as a more experienced, fully rounded person with new skills to offer” says Wakefield.


The employee experience
Andy Terry is employed by IBM as an IT consultant and his original degree was in civil engineering. He is currently applying to do teacher training..

“I heard about the scheme through an internal newsletter to staff. I’m at a stage in my career when my children are practically financially independent. It was possible for me to think of doing something different for the next ten years or so of my career.

“The first step was to get support from my manager to go through an exploratory stage to check that this really was for me before committing to any training. I was put in touch with a professional development adviser from Nord Anglia, which has been hired by the TDA to administer the programme.

“Without thinking too hard about it, I knew that I wanted to be a secondary school maths teacher. Apart from working out which academic discipline you’d choose, however, you have to work out whether you have the temperament to teach and there’s no substitute for having a go yourself.

“The TDA doesn’t have direct links to the schools – you have to make your own approach to get some. I wrote six letters to local schools and did observations at three. I struck up a relationship with one of the schools, Trinity High School in Redditch. I observed 11 lessons and taught five. I was given some topics to teach: mechanics, geometry, stats and some algebra.

The most difficult part was standing up in front of a class of 30 children for the first time and just getting them to be quiet. Some feedback from one pupil is that I “needed to work on my aggression” - I think they meant I had to be more assertive.You get a reference at the end of it, which is useful for my course application. The nicest thing was getting a round of applause at the end of my lessons. I don’t normally get that in my normal job!

“I also had useful advice from a university admissions tutor about how I needed to top up my maths subject knowledge. It’s a while since I got my degree and he recommended that I do an Open University course, which is the equivalent of one maths degree module. It’s a valuable refresher and also validated that I was capable of studying again - useful knowledge for me before I apply for my PGCE.

Participating organisations
A total of 47 companies and government are currently enlisted on the Transition to Teaching programme.  Financial assistance to employees isn’t mandatory but many of these organisations do offer support in various ways to members of staff who retrain to be teachers.

Need more advice? Visit Teaching as a career choice