How to become an education support officer: Callum's story

Meet Callum, 19, from Aberdeenshire. He works on the Isle of Coll as an education support officer for the educational charity Project Trust. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

"I didn’t know I wanted to get into teaching until my year away with Project Trust!"

What is your job?

I work for Project Trust, an educational charity that send 17-19-year-olds on long-term voluntary placements overseas either teaching, doing social care work or outdoor education projects. I run the Global Citizenship Schools Programme, liaising with schools and returned volunteers to organise Global Citizenship sessions. I enable returned volunteers to give back to their local community, so they can share their experiences of another culture or language in local primary schools and lower secondary schools. I also support current volunteers in completing their Diploma in International Volunteering.

What skills do you use in your job?

I use IT skills such as creating documents and spreadsheets, writing emails, using a database and using a server. I also use design and research skills when I make presentations and resources for lessons. In my job, I also have to have strong leadership and teaching skills, as well as be a strong communicator.

Our charity has five core skills that volunteers develop: awareness, resilience, communication/collaboration, confidence, and leadership.

What subjects did you study at school?

At National 5, I did Drama, Art, Graphics, Design and Manufacture, Physics, English and Mathematics. For my Highers I did the same subjects, dropping Design and Manufacture and Physics. I enjoyed my subject choice but picking subjects that were all similar did close off my options and, in reflection, I wish I had chosen a broader range of subjects.

How do you draw on a particular subject that you studied at school?

I did Drama at school which developed my confidence and communication skills and has really helped me with teaching and presenting. Also, basic IT that you learn in lower secondary is really important, along with English and graphics for creating documentation and resources. Additionally, a lot of work I did outside of school in terms of volunteering helped me develop the skills needed for my job.

How did you get into your job?

I didn’t know I wanted to go into education and the social sector until my year away teaching with Project Trust!

Originally, I wanted to do Architecture at university, however after my year away I realised it wasn’t right for me. I felt like I’d narrowed my choices in school and found it difficult to then change my career path. I focused on doing more voluntary work to help me gain the skills and experiences needed for my current role. Through my role at Project Trust I am getting the opportunity to work in education and the social sector and gain the additional training and experience needed to further my career.

Callum at work on the computer.

Top tips

  • When you’re doing your GCSEs, keep your options as varied as possible, because you may change your mind as you grow up

  • Also, don’t push yourself into a degree if you’re not 100% about it. Maybe take a structured year out to see the different options available before committing to one thing.

What to expect if you want to be a youth worker

A similar role to Callum's is youth worker. Youth workers guide and support young people aged 11 to 25. They organise activities to help with personal and social development.

  • Youth work salary: £23,250 to £37,500 per year
  • Youth worker working hours: 37 to 39 hours per week
  • Typical entry requirements: There are a variety of routes into youth work, including a university course, a college course, an apprenticeship or building relevant experience through voluntary work or other work experience. At university, you can do a professional youth work qualification, like a degree that is recognised by the National Youth Agency. Relevant subjects include Youth and Community, Community and Youth Studies, Youth and Theology, and Informal and Community Education. At college, you could do a course like a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Youth Work Practice. This would give you an advantage when you apply for a job as a youth support worker. You would then take further training on the job. Alternatively, you could complete an intermediate and advanced apprenticeship in youth work.
    Whichever route you choose, it's important that you get experience of paid or unpaid work with young people. You'll often need at least one year's experience to apply for professional youth work courses and jobs. Find out about local opportunities for voluntary or part-time youth work through the National Council for Voluntary Organisations by contacting your local authority youth service.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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