What is the demand for business teachers? Can I 'top up' my HND in engineering?

Appeal of economics

Q. I am in the first year of sixth form. I am unsure what I want to do when I leave, but one idea that appeals is teaching business studies or economics. What is the level of demand for business teachers and how good is the chance for career progression in teaching?

A. Demand for business studies will be highest anywhere that teaches those age 16 upwards, as it's not a core subject and is not usually taught to children below the age of 14. Post 16, it is likely to continue to be in big demand - recent statistics put it as the tenth most popular of the 34 major subjects at A-level, more popular than any modern foreign language or physics. But it won't always be taught on its own - new specialised diplomas, which the Government is intending to ask schools to offer in 2008, will mean there is likely to be an increase in vocational courses with a business element (IT and accounting for example) . Some schools have already seen an increase in those taking applied business courses. Economics is taught to very few children at GCSE level, although it is still a significant subject later on at A-level. It might more often be taught in the independent sector. Look up the Economics & Business Education Association website ( www.ebea.org.uk) for news and information. What's certain is that with a huge number of teachers over 50 now set to retire, new entrants will have an opportunity to step up the career ladder quickly. Salaries are now better, and you might find yourself on an advanced skills or leadership group pay-scale in the first few years. Check out www.ncsl.org.uk (National College for School Leadership) for details of schemes like fast track, or phone 0845 6000 991 (the Teaching Information Line).

Retail stigma

Q. I have been working in the hospitality and retail sector for more than five years before and since completing my HND in aerospace engineering. I have found it impossible to find work in the sector due to being under-qualified and, in my view, the stigma from working in retail. What courses are available to "top up"?

A. Keeping up to date is important in aerospace technology. There are many degree options - if you want to focus on aircraft maintenance, Kingston University offers a top-up honours year and you may have the prerequisite qualification through your HND. You could also try to look at direct entry on to year two or three of a degree course, depending on the content of, and grade obtained in, your HND. Don't forget air transport management, where your leisure industry experience may help. There shouldn't be the stigma you mention in relation to your retail work. Most students work part-time in similar roles and this can be beneficial in developing transferable skills, but you need to be certain these skills are coming across on your CV. You also need to demonstrate a genuine interest in aerospace. Things like helping out at a flying club or aircraft museum could help refresh knowledge and form contacts.

Look for jobs in the hundreds of smaller suppliers around the UK, as well as bigger companies. There is an increasing number of specialist aircraft maintenance providers, for example. The Royal Aeronautical Society ( www.raes.org.uk) has useful job-hunting lists, a handbook with company contacts and lists of courses, all free of charge. There is more detailed careers advice available for members.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk