My career change taught me there’s no age limit for learning
For National Apprenticeship Week, Zaheer Ud Din, shares how his existing skills are helping him to forge a new career.
What does your job role involve?
I am a Level 5 Teacher Apprentice at the Leeds City College School of Digital & IT. My role enables me to split my time between school and study, receiving school-led training from experienced teaching staff with time for independent learning around once a week. A typical day for me involves teaching adult higher education students, helping as a co-teacher and creating lesson plans. I also carry out administrative tasks, such as marking registers and database management. There’s always an opportunity to have a daily debrief with fellow teachers, which provides a space for me to ask questions, report any concerns and simply touch base.
What made you choose a career in teaching?
I originally worked as a Network Engineer for 18-20 years and when it was time for me to do the mandatory CCNA qualification upgrades, I ended up studying at Leeds City College. I became curious about digital-focused job roles at the college and was told about my teaching apprenticeship. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I wanted to convey my knowledge to other people. Digital & IT is an ever-changing industry and requires input from all specialisms to train the next generation of tech professionals. I felt that not imparting my skills to others would be a waste of my experience, so I decided to make a career move into teaching.
What was your prior knowledge about apprenticeships?
I knew I would be able to ‘learn and earn’ at the same time, but that was it. Even now, I’m still discovering how many degree apprenticeships there are at higher education level. Growing up, apprenticeships seemed more ‘trade focused’, whereas I now know they offer a direct avenue into any industry. It’s almost like a well-kept secret.
How do you think this apprenticeship will positively impact your future?
The plan is to serve as a lecturer or teacher once my studies are over, continuing to teach Digital & IT students skills in networks, digital infrastructure and ICT. I would also like to keep educating myself and increasing the skills I can impart (for example, I recently became qualified in coding). If there’s one thing my career change has taught me, it’s that there’s no age limit for learning.
What do you think would entice more people to enter teaching?
More awareness around the different routes into the profession, such as apprenticeships. I also suspect that we need to remind people how teaching can be the first step in putting someone on the path to a rewarding career. I have previous experience of teaching in Pakistan and found it encouraging to see how a teacher could inspire someone to pursue a dream. That’s the power of teaching – it drives fulfilment and community change.
How can we encourage more adults to pursue technology-related courses?
We need more role models who can remind people about the diversity of jobs in the digital industry. While living in a technology-driven society is a motivating factor and conversations around AI help to drive curiosity, most people don’t realise that tech-related roles exist in every industry. Healthcare, finance, agriculture – you can make an impact anywhere.
What would you say to anyone considering an apprenticeship?
That it’s great for your career development and, in many ways, allows you to really learn what an industry is like. Yes, financially the pay is less, but the flexible schedules mean you can work alongside your learning (should you wish to). Best of all, apprenticeships open the door to higher paid job roles because you are building the skill set that employers value. Look into it and if you find your dream vacancy, go for it!