Matthew McKeown is a part time lecturer at South West College and a past student of the college. He knows everything there is to know about how Vehicle Maintenance is taught in Further Education.
When I first left school I knew I wanted to be a mechanic and I’d have to find an apprenticeship. I started studying Light Motor Vehicle Repair at South West College and got a job in Pat Kirk’s in Omagh, where I did my six years as an apprentice, going through Levels 2, 3 and 4. The set-up really suited me because the teaching incorporated all the relevant industry training needs and requirements, and the placement meant I could apply all the knowledge and skills I gained directly to the workplace.
UK Skills Competitions
In 2012 I competed in the Regional Skills competitions, then the Northern Ireland Skills finals, and ultimately the UK finals, where I finished second. These competitions put a lot of pressure on a young person to compete, but it can also be the best thing that ever happens to them. It forces a student to reach new training requirements and it makes their educational better overall. It’s a great opportunity that our students still enjoy today.
Travelling and Learning Oversees
After the UK Skills I decided to go out to Australia and I stayed there for four years. In that time I worked for a dealership very similar to Pat Kirk’s at home, and also became a MasterTech. It gave me a lot of experience and industry knowledge, and I learned that no matter where you are in the world the industry still requires the same things – primarily good mechanics developed through great training.
When I was in Australia, Paul O’Loughlin, a lecturer at South West College, had me do video talks from my workshop. Because our workshop specialised in a lot of expertise areas, everything from car tuning to selling brand new cars, things we wouldn’t really see in this country, I was able to do a live video chat through skype and show students the workshop and the tools we had.
Lecturing at South West College
When I came home Paul O’Loughlin encouraged me to take on a part time lecturing role at SWC, and since I’ve been here I’ve realised that what I learned in Australia all relates back to what students at South West College are striving to learn and improve on every day. Motor vehicle work has always been an apprenticeship led industry, where experience and knowledge is handed down, so I take pride in being able to pass on my experiences to students.
Of course i’m also aware that as educators we have to continue to keep up with the very latest motor vehicle developments. Five years ago, cars weren’t even in the same ball park technology wise as what we’re dealing with today, so keeping up with industry requirements, taking that into the college, and impressing it directly onto the students, is crucial for the students education.
Teaching for the future
There’s no point talking about cars that are ten years old, because new cars now, be they electric or hybrid, are so different, and they are what we need to be focusing our teaching on, because they are what the industry that the students are going to be moving into when they qualify are all about.
I really enjoy being able to show somebody something new and teaching a student something that’s valuable to them; being able to show somebody a new skill that they can actually use, not just something they find interesting, but something they can really put into practice. I do a lot of work in the industry, and when I can teach a young person something that’s actually relevant to that, that’s when I know we’re training them in the right way.