What to consider before embarking on a career change
Selina Barker, career change coach and author of Burnt Out told the Big Issue: “When someone retrains later on in life they are often the most committed amongst trainees because it was a big decision to take the step to retrain, plus you’ll be bringing lots of valuable life experience with you.
“It’s important that before taking the big decision of retraining you try it out for size in some small way first. Sometimes people can be so keen to be out of the big unknown of what they are going to do with their life or career that they jump too quickly into a three year course before knowing for sure it is what they want to do.
“And there is nothing worse than dedicating money, energy and time to retraining in something, only to find half way through that in reality you don’t actually enjoy it in the way you imagined you would. And so it is essential to hear from people who work in the field you’re interested in – reading interviews, watching videos, going to open days (on or offline) – so that you know whatactivities make up most of their working day, what the challenges are and how others deal with those challenges.
“It’s also important to try the vocation out first in some small way, either by doing a foundation or taster course, shadowing someone as they do that job or doing some work experience.
“Once you’ve really got a taste of this new career path and you know it’s right for you, then don’t let the voice of doubt and fear hold you back. Making a big change like retraining is of course always going to come with challenges, but if it means you end up doing work you enjoy, then it will have been worth overcoming those challenges.”
Here are tips on how to retrain in ten important roles.
How to retrain as a prison officer
Prisons were among the employers with the most demand for staff in late 2021, with adverts for prison officers rising by 13 per cent according to Recruitment and Employment Confederation data.
You don’t need qualifications to become a prison officer, but there are a few requirements. To work in a high security prison (category A) you must have been a resident in the UK for the last 3 years.
Applicants will also be tested to check whether they are reasonably fit, have good eyesight in both eyes without lenses or glasses, and be able to hear normal conversation from three metres away without the use of hearing aids.
How to apply to be a prison officer
The first application you fill out should only take ten minutes, but the application process takes between six and seven months from when you submit your form to your first day on the job.
Applicants are first tested in an online test centre to check basic numeracy, reading and writing skills, as well as personal qualities such as judgement and communication skills.
Up next is an interview to find out your strengths, and what motivates and energises you, and finally the medical and fitness tests.
Starting salaries from prison officers range from £22,000 to £30,0000.
Start by finding a role on the HM Prison and Probation Service jobs page, and apply through the portal.
How to retrain as a scaffolder
The UK is facing a shortage of skilled workers “like never before”, according to DH Scaffold Services.
Scaffolders put up scaffolding on buildings and structures such as bridges to allow other workers to do their jobs safely. Construction workers building a house extension or roofers tackling a tricky roof repair, are almost guaranteed to require the services of a specialist scaffolder.
Recent statistics show that demand for scaffolders, bricklayers and plant mechanics exceeded the employment levels recorded in 2015 by up to 300 per cent.
Scaffolders can also go on to become construction managers or scaffolding designers, earning between anywhere between £19,000 and £40,000.
How to get qualified
There are many ways to become a scaffolder, so you could consider a college course, apprenticeship or working your way up in a scaffolding company.
You could start by taking a college course like a Level 1 or 2 Certificate in construction operations. You’ll need two or sometimes fewer GCSEs at grades 3 to 1 (D to G) to get a Level 1 Certificate, and two or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a Level 2, though equivalents are also accepted.
To become a fully qualified scaffolder at an advanced level takes about three years. An apprenticeship will usually take 18 months to complete, and all of the training takes place in a training centre or college.
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How to retrain as a HGV driver
The role of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers was catapulted to national attention by September’s fuel supply crisis, which saw queues at petrol station forecourts and panic-buying across the country.
There is a shortage of over 100,000 lorry drivers, according to trade body the Road Haulage Association. The shortage is likely to disrupt deliveries in the run up to the holiday season.
The rewards of the job can be lucrative. The average annual HGV driver salary is £32,100, according to jobs board Jobted — 8 percent above the national average — and wages can reach heights of £60,000 a year.
There has also been a jump in salaries during the crisis, according to Adzuna, with Waitrose reportedly offering wages of more than £50,000.
Driving a HGV isn’t for everyone. It often takes workers across borders, away from their families, and hours can be long. Some people might decide against driving for long periods.
But many drivers credit the freedom and independence it delivers. So if you want to pivot career paths and become a HGV driver, how can you do it?
How to get qualified
You need to be over 18 to train as a HGV driver and many job ads require you to hold a driving licence for a year.
The main component of retraining is passing the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC). (There are various categories of HGV license.)
The CPC is broken down for most people into four tests: theory (67 out of 100 to pass), case studies (40 out of 50), driving ability (below 15 faults) and practical demonstration, such as loading the truck and assessing emergency situations (80 out of 100).
You also need to pass a medical exam with your doctor to ensure you do not have underlying conditions — such as epilepsy, memory problems, seizures, blackouts, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s — that could impact your driving.
How can I get funding?
Ministers have announced a £10million scheme to create free intensive boot camps to train thousands of new drivers. This is alongside visas for 5,000 foreign drivers this autumn.
This will help thousands of people cut the costs of retraining — which typically ranges between £250 and £300 for tests plus the costs of private training lessons.
See here for more information about applying for government intensive boot camps.
How to retrain as a teacher
The first step to retrain as a teacher is to decide what age you want to teach — from early years to further education, according to Get Into Teaching.
The next step is to assess your qualifications — a degree or equivalent is needed to progress to teacher training and you’ll also need grade 4 (C) and above GCSEs in England, maths, and science if you want to teach primary. If you don’t have these qualifications, there may be other ways to show you meet the standard.
If you don’t have a degree, you can do undergraduate teacher training.
How to get funding
People who want to train to teach can apply for a tuition loan of up to £9,250 and a maintenance loan of up to £12,383. If you already have a student loan, your repayments will not increase. There are also tax-free bursaries or scholarships available to train in certain subjects such as Chemistry, Maths or Biology. Final year undergraduate students may also be eligible for a £9,000 training bursary.
Former military personnel may be eligible for a tax-free £40,000 Troops to Teachers bursary.
More about eligibility for bursaries and funding your training.
How to take on this new career for free
Britain needs new teachers more than ever, according to charity Teach First. These learn-on-the-job schemes fast track people to the classroom where they can earn a salary and pay no fees. With Teach First, new teachers train for two years, with an optional third year to get a Masters degree. After five weeks training, teachers begin working in the classroom.
People who want to undertake a career change can do so through the Schools Direct programme. Applicants usually need three years worth of transferable employment history. The course takes a year and those taking part earn a salary but do not always work towards a qualification.
How to apply for a teaching course
Courses usually start in September or January, with applications opening around a year before and staying open until they are full, according to Get Into Teaching. One-to-one support is available via a teacher training adviser. Postgraduate teacher training coursesare listed online. Try these top teacher training tips to make your application sparkle.
How to retrain as a paramedic
You can become a paramedic by studying an approved degree in paramedic science then applying to the ambulance service. Undergraduate courses take three to four years full-time and include the NHS Learning Support Fund’s minimum of £5,000 a year to find studies. Some ambulance trusts offer the option of studying while working, according to NHS health careers.
Skills needed to change career to a paramedic
One mandatory requirement to become a paramedic is a full, manual driving licence. Other must-have skills include being able to remain calm in stressful situations, great communication skills and being able to make quick decisions.
How to retrain as a nurse
A nursing degree is the UK’s most employable type of degree, with 94% of students getting a job within six months of the end of their course, according to NHS health careers. Some people are eligible for at least £5,000 financial support for each year of their degree.
Choose a nursing course
Like teaching, the first step in a career change to become a nurse is deciding which area you want to specialise in. There are four to choose from; adults, children, learning disabilities or mental health. Some courses allow students to specialise in more than one field. You can search the NHS jobs course finder. Since the pandemic, some universities are offering online nursing courses, which can be found by searching ‘blended’ on the course finder.
Other routes to becoming a nurse
A degree is not the only way to become a nurse. Other routes include registered nurse degree apprenticeships (RNDAs), which are advertised on the NHS jobs website. Another option is to become a nursing associate, which is an adjacent role to care support workers in health and social care. These trainee roles do not make you a registered nurse but can be topped up with further training.
How to retrain as a midwife
The role of a midwife is rooted in compassion and nurturing as they help deliver newborn children into the world.
It’s also about building respectful relationships with families and pregnant people in the run-up and aftermath of births.
Statistics reported by the National Health Executive reveal that for every 30 midwives who train, 29 leave the profession, making the position severely understaffed in the UK.
There is also a global shortage of around 900,000 midwives, according to The State of the World’s Midwifery report, which analysed 194 countries — making it a job in demand and vital for public health.
How to get qualified as a midwife
Retraining to be a midwife depends on whether you already have other medical qualifications.
If you’re a qualified nurse, for example, you can take a fast-tracked 18-month course.
If not, you’ll need to study for a three-year midwifery degree.
About half the degree will be spent on practical placements — learning about maternity care in community and hospital settings.
How can I get midwifery funding?
You can get a government grant of £5,000 each academic year under the NHS Learning Support Fund, which launched in 2020.
You can also get a further £2,000 parental support grant if you have at least one dependent child under 15 years, or under 17 years if registered with special educational needs.
Feeling inspired? We spoke with five midwives to learn more about why they think their line of work is facing a staffing shortage and what they love about their job.
See here for more information on the NHS Learning Support Fund.
How to change career and become a plumber
You can retrain as a plumber via an apprenticeship, by completing a fast-track course or by working as a plumber’s mate. Traditional plumbing apprenticeships take four years to complete and are sponsored so don’t cost anything. However, fast-track plumbing courses are a good option for people who want to career change as they only take eight to 10 weeks.
Why is becoming a plumber a good career change choice?
There is a high demand for plumbers in the UK, according to the Skills Training Group. This is because many skilled workers are of retirement age and because of lack of funding for apprenticeships. Visit the Skills Training Group for more information on finding a new career path.
How to start a new career as a doctor
There are many routes to becoming a doctor, according to the British Medical Association (BMA), but it’s worth considering undergraduate training can take up to six years before a career change. Graduate entry programmes into medicine can be found at some universities. However, it is also possible to study medicine as a mature student or with few qualifications. A good place to start is an access course at your local college, according to the BMA. People without a science background can opt to undertake pre-clinical medical foundation courses.
Medical training route
After undergraduate medical training, graduates must complete two years’ integrated training to be able to practice as a doctor in the UK. Post-graduate training gives doctors 60 different specialities to choose from.
How to start a new career as a counsellor
There are no compulsory training courses or qualifications for therapists. However the British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) sets its own standard for training. BACP recommends a three-stage route of three to four years,
Career Change step one: Introduction to counselling
Deciding whether counselling is the right career change for you can be explored with an initial step of an introductory course, according to BACP. If you search for courses, they are usually run at further education colleges or adult education centres and last up to 12 weeks.
Search distance-learning counselling courses via the Open University.
Certificate in counselling skills
The next step is a one-year part-time course that develops your counselling skills, expands knowledge of theories, ethics and self-awareness.
Find out more about becoming a counsellor.
Core practitioner training
According to BACP, your course should be at least one-year full-time or two years part-time classroom-based tuition. The training should also include supervised placements of a minimum of 100 hours to practise skills with clients under supervision. Accredited courses can be searched via the BACP directory, Hot Courses or UCAS.
Search counselling jobs
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