Feb 2024

Spotlight on EngTechs: Lewis Litherland

With a focus on training and education for National Apprenticeship week, Jordanne Allsopp, Marketing Communications Co-Ordinator, speaks to EngTech member Lewis Litherland, Gas and Renewable Energy Lecturer at St Helens College.

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After conducting his first lesson as a Lecturer at St Helens College in 2021, Lewis Litherland experienced a profound epiphany. “In that moment,” he reflected, “I realised that the once reserved gas engineer had now transformed into a confident teacher, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Lewis’ career began when he was 17, working as an apprentice at British Gas where he remained for 10 years, taking on various roles including as a Gas Engineer and a Technical Service and Repair Engineer.

He said that moving to teaching was quite a surprise to his friends and family given his introverted personality but he was looking forward to the challenge.

Lewis said: “It was a step out of my comfort zone but it was the best decision I have made in my career.”

His first ever lesson was based on the layout of common heating systems, where he was provided with a 90-minute PowerPoint presentation to go through with his students. He had worked with newly qualified engineers and apprentices when on the tools previously, but had no experience teaching in a formal setting.

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Lewis said that his knowledge working as an engineer came pouring out of him for the next 90 minutes and he found himself doing demonstrations with zone valves, pumps, air vents and TRVs to enforce his points.

He said: “I stood up and somehow began to talk about the subject with a confidence I rarely felt in my everyday life, it was almost an out-of-body experience. The students hung onto every word I said and even began to ask me questions as I spoke.”

Since then, Lewis’ teaching skills have gone from strength to strength, and he hopes to contribute to how the curriculum is constructed, delivered and assessed on a national level in the future.

Lewis joined IGEM to keep up to date with the advice and guidance he passes on to his students, particularly surrounding industry standards.

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He said: “I felt a sense of pride in my own practice, and I knew that an IGEM membership would be a badge of honour to showcase the passion I have for the industry to my students and colleagues.”

Since joining, Lewis has shown a particular interest in Gi, explaining that once he has finished reading his copy, he takes it to his classes to allow students to read and digest.

He said: “It is nice to see that they often pick up copies and then refer to the articles during class discussions.”

Lewis is also a recent recipient of the IGEM EngTech Grant, having received funds to use towards his career progression. He intends to use the grant to complete a non-domestic gas installation course and an incident investigation course, using the extra knowledge to pass on to his students.

Lewis has also enjoyed the chance to meet a variety of other EngTech members through his membership, explaining that the institution has a family feel. He said: “No matter the background or working environments that an individual has come from, each person has been friendly, helpful and respectful in my experience.”

His advice for anyone considering EngTech membership is to speak to existing members, as their passion will shine through when they’re explaining the benefits to another person.

He said: “As an educator, learning new things and putting these into practice is the most exciting part of being an engineer and this shouldn’t stop when a person qualifies or becomes ‘experienced’.”

Current gas apprenticeships

There are two routes into gas engineering under the current apprenticeship scheme. One route includes learning the fundamentals of plumbing before learning aspects of gas engineering. The other involves learning the theory of gas engineering in more depth.

Typically, an apprenticeship will last a minimum of four years, although, as Lewis likes to emphasise to his students, education is not a factory and some may take longer than others to reach the necessary levels of experience and understanding.

To enrol onto a gas apprenticeship, a student must have a minimum of a Grade 4 in Maths and English (equivalent to the former Grade C).

The employer who takes on the apprentice must also provide evidence that they are Gas Safe-registered and can facilitate training on the range of works the apprentice will be assessed on throughout their course, e.g., boiler installations, boiler repairs, servicing, commissioning, etc.

The future of teaching

Lewis is passionate about welcoming newcomers to the industry and has been encouraged by the number of young people securing apprenticeships and looking to start out in the gas industry.

He said: “The more people we can welcome into this sector, the more ideas will be brought forward, meaning more people will become passionate about the industry and follow those ideas up and, fundamentally, the better the industry will be.

“The main benefit of teaching gas engineering to young people is the reward you feel when they achieve their goals. Seeing the enjoyment they experience while making their way in an industry that has personally treated me very well gives me a remarkable sense of job satisfaction.

“If I could give any advice to a current gas engineer who may be thinking of a career change it would be to consider teaching a lesson to see if it is for you.

“I am a prime example that you are never too young, too shy or too inexperienced in teaching to help change a young person’s life.”