After a long career as an electrical technician in the West Midlands motor industry, Niall is swapping circuit boards and lasers for hearts and minds, as he embarks on a new life as a Teaching Assistant.

While many people approaching the end of their career might be thinking about retirement plans, Niall has a different approach – he has begun a Supporting Teaching and Learning course at BAES' Quinborne Centre, with a placement at a Birmingham secondary school .

In his skilled roles with Rover and BMW, Niall enjoyed working with apprentices:"it was rewarding to work with young people and help them – and it was good experience in learning when they were trying to pull the wool over my eyes!"

"It's very rewarding to help someone develop and make progress"

This was reinforced when he helped his wife Elaine as she took a Maths GCSE with BAES a few years ago. Elaine suggested that he volunteer to support others, and before long he was supporting a Maths class at Northfield centre.

"I found I had a knack for explaining things in a simple way. I could identify what might be holding a learner back from understanding a particular area, and help them to work it out for themselves.

It's very rewarding to help someone develop and make progress; it really feels like I'm making a difference."

Niall had also achieved a Level 5 English GCSE at Northfield, which he found a valuable experience:

"My tutor Lucy was an inspirational teacher; thanks to her insight and knowledge, my writing was transformed by the end of the course.

"The atmosphere in class was fantastic, everyone encouraged each other. Even then I was making sure that everyone else did their homework, so it's obviously a natural progression for me to move into this area!"

"I feel excited about the future"

So as Niall moves into Phase Two of his career, does he have any second thoughts about those retirement plans?

"Thanks to the confidence and experience that I've got from volunteering and studying with BAES, I feel excited about the future. And with four children at secondary school I've got no interest in a round-the-world cruise, I would get bored. I want to work until I drop – you're dead a long time!"

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