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Career change pays off

Celia Popovic remembers her early days in FE teaching as chaotic and insecure.

An arts graduate with six years experience of training in the computer industry she took a step into the unknown four years ago when she left a management job, where she had a company car and earned Pounds 20,000 a year, to go into part-time teaching.

"I just handed in my notice and left. It seemed the only way to get into FE teaching was to look for part-time work, so I started phoning around colleges in a 50 mile radius."

Today she works full time for the Open University's arts and education faculties developing distance learning materials using IT and other relevant computer-based techniques. She's making a successful career in education and is the envy of many former colleagues in FE for the speed with which she moved into higher education.

But Celia, 35, a mother of two from Birmingham, says without luck, persistence and a supportive partner, changing careers would have been impossible. "I took a huge risk. I had a degree, but no teaching qualifications and really had to feel my way at first."

She soon found part-time lecturing work at Solihull College, teaching GCSE and A-level English, and picked up hours at other colleges in the area, teaching assertiveness courses and, later, degree-level classes in Black American Literature.

Training and career development was largely left to her own initiative. She soon established a support group with other part-timers new to FE.

She studied part-time for the City and Guilds "730" FE teaching qualification and later funded her own MEd at Birmingham University.

"Because I felt so insecure I wanted to do whatever I could to make my life more secure - so I pushed for full-time jobs constantly and took on the Masters degree to improve my employability."

Eventually she was offered a half-time contract post at Solihull running the open language learning centre on a job-share scheme.

This term she started her a job at the Open University in Milton Keynes on a five year contract. Four years after leaving her job she has a secure post and is earning a compatible salary.

"Going into FE was a big risk. But it's worth it if you're self-motivated and persistent enough to go for what you want"

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