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Meet the Trainer – Mark Dickson

Mark joined the OAS team in 2021 after a 25 year career in aerospace and military grade manufacturing and engineering, having been inspired to join the education sector by his former History teacher. 

We talked to him about why the secret to success is enjoying what you do, the positive impact of becoming a trainer, and how it felt to be personally thanked for his electronics work on wild cheetah tracking collars in Nature Magazine!

What was your prior industrial experience before you joined OAS?

Before I joined the MTC Apprenticeships team at OAS, I was a teacher and lecturer at a Further Education (FE) college in Basildon in Essex. I taught engineering to apprentices and FE students there for about four years. 

Before that, I was in industry as a production engineer and process engineer, working in aerospace manufacturing for 25 years.

What would you say are your career highlights?

I’ve got a couple! Once would be working in space flight manufacturing – there’s a satellite called Euclid that’s currently floating around in space, and I worked on some of the components and manufacturing support for it. It was great to be involved with quite a high profile programme.

The second one is a mention in the leading international scientific journal, Nature. I worked on a research project and got a thank you in one of the published articles for my electronics assembly work! The project was building and designing tracking collars for cheetahs in the wild, and the data they collected was used by Boston Dynamics to model the movement of their robots.

Why did you decide to become a trainer?

I’ve actually always wanted to become a teacher but I didn’t think I’d get the opportunity having chosen a career in engineering. Like most people in education, I was inspired by a previous teacher – my GCSE History teacher was amazing, although it’s a long time ago now! When I was given the opportunity to interview to enter the training sector I was keen and eager, but I had no idea how much of a positive impact it would make to my life to be honest, I love it!

What do you enjoy most about your training role?

Seeing the progress that our learners make. When someone is making real and significant progress, it’s a brilliant feeling to know that they’ve taken on board your help and that you’ve guided them towards that achievement.

How is OAS different from other training centres?

The resources and access to technical equipment here are very different to other training centres, but the thing that really excites me about working at OAS is how we’re open to and driven by both the progress of the learners and of engineering itself. Together these provide a really profound learning experience for our apprentices. Delivery focused on modern engineering – what’s happening now, and what’s happening in the future. It’s difficult for an educational facility to keep up with industrial innovation, but OAS is working to bridge that gap better than any other organisation that I’ve seen.

What qualities do apprentices need to make the most of their opportunities here?

This is an easy one! An open mind, and a willingness to learn and to focus. I’m not expecting apprentices to be able to do everything straight off the bat, but I encourage them to develop a good work ethic. Our programmes are hard work, but that hard work pays off. We’re here to help of course, and we’ll support every learner to develop that state and frame of mind, but the apprentice needs to be ready to achieve it.

What advice would you give to prospective apprentices?

Find something about engineering that excites you – you’ve got to do something you love! You’ll also find it much easier to progress in something if you enjoy it, and that enjoyment will carry you through your studies and drive you to participate and achieve.