Professional Comment

How I’m Using My Health and Social Care Experience to Shape the Next Generation of Workers

By Sharon Mangoma, who worked as a Care Assistant Manager for 14 years and now teaches full-time at a further education college in Ipswich

After 14 years working in health and social care, Sharon chose to become a further education (FE) teacher to inspire the next generation beginning their careers in the industry. Further education is any formal study for those 16 and over that’s not an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. Sharon delivers health and social care training in her hometown of Ipswich, passing on her real-life experience of working with vulnerable people day-to-day.

It might surprise you, but teaching in further education has many similarities with working in health and social care. So, after 14 years of experience in the industry when I moved into FE teaching, I found it a natural fit for my existing skillset. When caring for people day-to-day, you must be flexible and supportive to adapt to their individual needs – in education, it’s very much the same. I even carry out the same mental health checks that I did in my previous healthcare role to make sure my students are in the right headspace to learn.

So why did I make the move to FE? After loving working in the health and social care industry for many years, I sprained my back and couldn’t carry out a lot of the more physical tasks in the same way, so I decided to look for new opportunities. I wanted a job where I could still use my existing skillset and teaching in FE was the perfect fit. It’s flexible and something I can even continue after I retire, lecturing on an ad-hoc basis.

I also realised the next generation of health and social care professionals needed more support. As a care manager, a significant part of my role involved understanding the needs of the individuals we cared for. I found myself training new colleagues at work, sharing my experiences on the job and helping others to develop essential skills. Teaching in FE therefore felt like the natural next step – and I’d already gained the skills needed without even realising.

It was much easier than I thought to make the move to teaching in FE. You don’t need a degree or any prior teaching experience to start, so I could begin earning right away and complete my teacher training whilst on the job. When it comes to teaching in FE, having real life experiences to share with students and contextualise their learning is valuable and really enhances the delivery of the curriculum. For example, a story I frequently share to show how important it is to get to know the people you’re caring for is about one of my elderly patients who never settled at bedtime. That was, until I read their life history and found out that they used to be a nurse who worked nights. After learning that, we made sure that she was able to stay up at night with staff instead of trying to put her to bed.

I see from my students that there are many reasons people choose to work in health and social care, from a passion for the industry to their own personal experiences within it. For some, it’s as simple as having a role model for themselves in the industry. I find it inspiring to pass on my knowledge and it is largely thanks to role models of my own that I have the opportunity to do so. As a young African girl in a foreign country, it was really important to see that representation in person. I admired my Ghanian teachers and knowing that they were African like me made feel like it was possible that I could be a teacher too. As carers, we serve diverse communities and individuals with diverse needs, so awareness of equality, diversity, and inclusion issues is essential, particularly if we’re looking to recruit more people into the industry. Now, teaching in FE gives enables me to share my skills and inspire other people like me, helping to shape the next generation of health and social care workers.

There’s no better feeling than walking into a hospital or my local GP surgery and seeing former students I’ve taught. I would say if you’re looking for a job where every day is different and where you get incredible job satisfaction, then teaching in FE could be for you. You can even do it part-time alongside your current position. It’s not a role where you need your manager to tell you you’re doing a good job – you see this first hand. So why not use your skills in a new way to inspire future health and social care professionals?

Visit the Teach in Further Education website for more information: