Teaching

Facing enemy fighters is one thing, but how about a classroom of children? We highlight the transferable skills and career opportunities that could make teaching the right career move for you.

Confidence and selfless dedication to the job in hand are natural requisites of those serving in the UK’s Armed Forces. They’re also useful in the classroom, which is not necessarily as far away from the battlefield as you might think!

Since each of the Services retain responsibility for the training of their own staff, it’s no surprise that numerous officers are also qualified teachers, either based in specific education and training posts or on duty as instructors. Also, many Service leavers – before resettlement – will have worked towards the likes of the post-16 Certificate of Education or City & Guilds Further & Adult Education Teachers’ Certificate.

TEACHING IN CIVVY STREET
There are currently around 527,600 full and part-time teachers in the UK, working in both the public sector and independent or private schools. While the largest employers are local councils, control of overall policy and standards remains in the hands of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in England, and the education departments of the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Because of this division, education systems do vary across the UK – Scotland, in particular, retains a distinctive training and career structure. Training to be a teacher in one country within the UK is by no means a passport to teaching in another.

According to Peter Eaton of the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA, formerly Teacher Training Agency, and still the body responsible for the standard of teacher training in England), there is no career quite like teaching, particularly for someone used to the levels of support offered by the Armed Forces. He told us: “A school is a community, and by working with other intelligent, like-minded people, teachers and support staff pull together to help and encourage each other. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of ways to train as a teacher, so for those with the qualifications, commitment and ability, there is a suitable course, from full-time, part-time and flexible training to on-the-job training while earning a salary.”

TEACHING IN ENGLAND, WALES & NORTHERN IRELAND
Qualifications: There are two main routes to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England, Wales or Northern Ireland: as an undergraduate, you take a combined degree which includes the main subject, an education course and some classroom experience – these could be a three year BEd or four-year BA or BSc). If you already have a degree, you can complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE); this takes a full academic year, at least half of which is spent in real classroom situations.

Every year, a small number of people join the England-only Graduate Teacher Programme; this allows graduates to complete their PGCE while actually working in a school. This is a particularly good option for those who need to continue earning while they train; depending on the school, those on GTP will be paid the salary of either an unqualified or newly qualified teacher – at least £14,000 for the year. Understandably, competition to enter the GTP is very high. To apply for a place on the GTP, you must contact the relevant Designated Recommending Body (DRB) in the area you wish to work; a list of current DRBs is available on the TDA website at www.tda.gov.uk

Funding: From September 2006, undergraduates training in England will be able to claim a means-tested grant of up to £2,700 a year from either the DfES or the Welsh Assembly, if your Welsh. Postgraduates working towards PGCE in England will be eligible for a non-means-tested grant of £1,200 for the year and an additional means-tested grant of up to £1,500 – the rates in Wales are still under review. Those studying to teach ‘priority subjects’ (such as secondary mathematics, science, ICT, modern languages, RE and music) also qualify for a tax free bursary of up to £9,000 for the year it takes to complete the PGCE.

People in England who go on to teach secondary priority subjects are also eligible for a taxable £2,500 – £5,000 ‘golden hello’ at the start of their second year as a qualified teacher. Full payment conditions on these and other financial incentives can be found on the TDA’s website or through their Information Line.

There are no additinal financial incentives offered to students studying to become teachers in Northern Ireland, although students accepted onto PGCE courses are eligible for mandatory, means-tested awards from their local Education & Library Boards.

Pay: Salaries for qualified teachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland range from £19,161 to £30,339, with bonuses depending on responsibilities. In England, experienced teachers unwilling to be promoted out of the classroom can train to become Advanced Skills Teachers. ASTs work to raise standards of teaching and learning by the likes of contributing to high quality teaching materials, mentoring newly qualified teachers and providing ‘model’ lessons to enhance the skills of teachers in their own and other schools. AST’s can earn up to £56,526.

TEACHING IN SCOTLAND
Qualifications: In Scotland, there are three routes to gain QTS. Undegraduates at Scottish universities can complete either a four year Bachelor of Education degree (BEd) – in Primary Education, Physical Education, Music or Technological Education – or a combined (sometimes called ‘concurrent’) degree course – including main subject, study of education and school experience. Meantime, graduates can complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) course either full-time (one year) at university or – with some institutions – through part-time / distance learning.

Funding: Tuition fees for Scottish undergraduates studying north of the border are paid for by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland, which can also offer a means tested maintenance grant of up to £2,480, and a range of supplementary grants (for disabilities, dependents, lone parents, etc) – these are not specifically for student teachers. Those already with a postgraduate qualification looking to move into teaching will normally qualify for tuition fee support, particularly if they want to teach in subjects such as Art, Chemistry, Gaelic and Physics.

Pay: From next April, classroom teachers’ salaries will range from £19,440 up to £31,008, depending on grade and experience. Teachers who have the skills and experience of many years teaching, but who wish to remain in the classroom can choose to become ‘Chartered Teachers’, sharing their skills and experience with other teachers through the likes of mentoring schemes. Chartered Teachers can currently earn up to £38,868.

REGISTRATION
On gaining QTS, you will be required to register with the appropriate General Teaching Council – for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Once qualified and in employment, teachers must then complete a three-term programme of tailored training and support, designed to equip them for the classroom and lay the foundations of their future career. Nor is this the end of the learning process; Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a process through which teachers widen and develop their skills and qualifications, ensuring they continue to meet statutory and advisory standards.

PROSPECTS
While significant government investment in education is bringing more people of all ages to the teaching profession (some 41,000 in England and Wales, last year), there are still subjects – such as mathematics, science, english and modern languages – where shortages of qualified teaching staff mean that those who are qualified have a good choice of where to work – at least in mainland Britain, since Northern Ireland is not affected by the same shortages as the rest of the UK. Not only that, once you are in the profession, there are clearly defined career routes with agreed additional allowances as you make your way up the appropriate pay scales.

Peter Eaton added: “There are widespread progression opportunities for the most ambitious candidates. In secondary schools, teachers can move up the management structure within their subject team to become head of department. They could also become a head of year or lead an area such as special needs or pastoral care.” Also, with teaching having become increasingly female dominated in recent years, there are concerted efforts to attract more men into the profession, particularly in primary school teaching.

IS TEACHING FOR YOU?
The TDA organise short taster courses throughout the year. Lasting three to four days, including a one day school placement, these aim to give as realistic an idea as possible about the training and working environment. Alternatively, TDA’s Open Schools Programme allows you to spend a day in one of some 700 schools, observing lessons and talking to staff about the work, the curriculum and careers.

What makes a good teacher? According to the Scottish Executive, which has done much to boost the status and working conditions of the profession north of the border, important attributes include: good communication and interpersonal skills; commitment and enthusiasm; time management and organisational skills; the ability to work in a team as well as take on individual responsibility; stamina and resilience; flexibility and motivation.

Now, if that’s not a good match for people in the Armed Forces, what is?

FURTHER INFORMATION

Department for Education ( Northern Ireland)
028 9127 9534
www.deni.gov.uk

General Teaching Council for England
0870 001 0308
www.gtce.org.uk

General Teaching Council for Scotland
0131 314 6000
www.gtcs.org.uk

General Teaching Council for Wales
029 2055 0350
www.gtcw.org.uk

Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR)
Customer Service Unit: 0870 1122205
www.gttr.ac.uk

Skill Force
01623 827651
www.skillforce.org

Teaching in Scotland
0845 345 4745.
www.teachinginscotland.com

Training and Development Agency for Schools
(formerly Teacher Training Agency)
0845 6000 991 (English speakers)
0845 6000 992 (Welsh speakers)
www.tda.gov.uk

UCAS
0870 11 222 11
www.ucas.com

Telecommunications

We explore how experience of IT and communications systems learned in the Armed Forces can be transferred into civilian life.

“Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance,” was the message allegedly sent by an officer on the front line during the First World War. Unfortunately, because the urgent request was passed back by word of mouth, by the time the Generals at HQ received it, mis-hearings and misunderstandings had changed the message to “Send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance.”

This example of the corrupting influence of ‘Chinese whispers’ is almost certainly apocryphal, but it underlines two important points: firstly, poor communication links can garble messages they’re supposed to be carrying; secondly, because of this, secure and reliable systems are absolutely vital, particularly in combat situations. The MoD are fully aware of this, having recently announced the purchase of a new £200 million ‘air-portable’ battlefield communications network called FALCON which, when it comes into service in 2010, will be one of the most advanced and powerful digital communications networks in the field. Offering up to 50 times the current data carrying capability, FALCON will be able to relay information between battlefield commanders and UK headquarters via the MoD’s new Skynet 5 satellite communications system.

TELECOMS IN CIVVY STREET
High-tech communication systems are far from being the preserve of the Armed Forces. Technology is developing equally rapidly on civvy street, and you shouldn’t underestimate the scale of the UK’s telecoms sector in terms of both the technology it uses and the career opportunities it offers. Bizarre as it might seem, there are now more mobile phones in the UK than there are people, while the ongoing expansion of broadband networks is continuing to change the way many of us ‘work, rest and play’. In a world where you can potentially use your mobile phone to access the internet, send emails or download videos – and where companies offer phone, internet and television services through the same cables – telecoms is at the heart of our ‘information economy’.

Modern day telecommunications companies need people to erect, fit out, and maintain the aerials, base stations, exchanges and fixed line/cable networks that form the backbone of their physical infrastructure. They also need people to manage and plan those networks, as well as create and develop the software which then enables our communications systems to function accurately and promptly; after all, all communications are repeatedly processed – compressed, decompressed, broken up, reconstituted – before they arrive at their destination. In this high-tech industry, even those primarily concerned with the installation of hardware will need a reasonable level of computer literacy.

Although IT may have a reputation for attracting young people, the age profile for the telecoms sector is pretty similar to the UK workforce as a whole, albeit with a slightly higher percentage of 25-54 year olds and fewer aged 16-24 and 55-64. This may be largely thanks to the skills-orientated nature of the industry; it attracts people with a certain level of experience and knowledge, and the maturity that comes with it, along with other valued interpersonal skills.

ALREADY QUALIFIED?
Each of the UK’s Armed Forces has its own telecommunication systems specialists within their ranks – for example, members of the Army’s Royal Corps of Signals. They are responsible for the operation, installation, repair and continued maintenance of a wide range of both military and civilian communication systems and networks, which the Forces rely on for communications during both training and operations.

Such a career within the Armed Forces can lead to a range of useful qualifications from NVQs and City & Guilds certificates to BTEC National Diplomas and degrees, such as the BSc (Hons) in Telecommunications Systems Engineering.

Regardless of your expertise, it is important to take advantage of any training courses and advice available through the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) to ensure that you have the appropriate skills, experience and qualities sought by employers within the civilian telecoms industry.

LOOKING FOR QUALIFICATIONS?
Clearly, anyone who has specialised in areas of telecoms as part of their career path within the Armed Forces will possess valuable and applicable skills as they move back into civvy street. However, if you don’t already have such technical experience, you can still enter the industry, although you will obviously start at a different level.

An increasing range of qualifications have been devised by e-skills UK (the sector skills council for the telecommunications industry) which are increasingly recognised by civilian employers. These range from vocational qualifications – apprenticeships, foundation degrees and Graduate Professional Development Awards (combining work-related training and work-based assessment) – to intermediate qualifications (HNCs and HNDs) and degree level qualifications which will involve at least some study at college or university. Some major IT companies and professional bodies – such as Microsoft and the Institute for the Management of Information Systems – have devised their own qualifications.

Always remember that, whether you have telecommunications experience or not, you are likely to have the dedicated work ethic and interpersonal qualities – such as problem-solving and team-working skills – that are increasingly valued within the telecommunications industry.

ONGOING TRAINING
With both technology and services continuing to develop at an increasing rate, telecoms is an industry where learning never really stops. According to the latest survey by e-skills, telecoms staff continue to receive more job-related education/training than other workers – in late 2005, for instance, a third of employees received some kind of training, compared with only 28% of the whole UK workforce. NTL Incorporated, which now provides services for some 12 million households across the UK, not only puts all new recruits through an appropriate induction course, but also provides a range of on-going training courses using ‘development specialists’ and – increasingly – online learning. Meanwhile, every employee at BT has a specially tailored Development Action Plan in place to support both current and future career development. BT also has a number of coaching, networking, mentoring and ‘buddy programmes’, plus a range of online and off-line training courses provided by their own ‘corporate university’, the BT Academy.

WORKING IN TELECOMMUNICATIONS
Telecoms is one of the fastest changing sectors around. As communications technology evolves further, and continues to bed itself deeper into our lives, the range of jobs on offer will continue to increase, offering excellent career opportunities to anyone with good communication and problem-solving skills, plus the up-to-date technical knowledge needed by the sector.

PAY & PROSPECTS
Salaries can vary significantly depending on whether you’re employed full-time or on short-term contracts, although both have risen significantly in comparison to average salaries in the UK. According to e-skills UK, during the last quarter of 2005, the average weekly salary (before tax) for contract workers in telecommunications was £593 (£30,836 a year), well above the UK average gross salary of £394 a week. Salaries for telecoms engineers across England range between £18,000 and £25,000; those for network engineers range between £30,000 and £45,000. Large companies will enhance salaries with shift allowances and additional benefits such as private healthcare options, bonus schemes and discounts on both the company’s own services and those negotiated with other companies or organisations, such as life assurance, holidays and hotel accommodation.

Prospects in this sector are also good; during the last quarter of 2005, workers were in demand, skills gaps were down and training levels in the sector were above the UK average. There was a slight fall in the number of people actually working in the sector at a time when there was a continued increase in telecommunication vacancies advertised within JobCentre Plus offices and specialist computing publications. Consequently, according to e-skills UK “Salaries of telecoms professionals increased by an impressive 28% (net).”

“WHAT TEAMWORK IS ALL ABOUT.”
Peter Stacey, head of the apprenticeship programme at mobile network company O2, first became interested in telecommunications during his ten years as a Royal Navy marine engineer. He then opted to completely retrain once he re-entered civvy street in the early 1970s. “I was fortunate enough to get a job with Post Office Telephones,” says Peter. “I was given a lot of opportunities there to improve myself and I was able to gain professional qualifications at college.”

As Post Office Telephones became British Telecom and then BT, Peter worked his way up to become a senior technician before progressing into management: “I moved away from day-to-day engineering to a performance management role, responsible for large groups of staff.” It was around this time, however, that he realised he again wanted to change the focus of his career – towards training. “I’d done lots of voluntary work, which gave me an understanding of the type of training I wanted to move into.”

The opportunity finally came when he moved to 02. “They wanted someone to pick up and develop apprenticeships; the company had identified that they wanted to invest and support that sort of a programme, but what they didn’t have was someone with my background and skills from both an engineering and training point of view.”

Although Peter entered telecommunications after military service, he nevertheless believes his experience in the Navy contributed to the success of his subsequent career. “The Navy gave me a very good grounding with people; the ability to interact at all different levels with people is absolutely vital if you want to succeed in any career. There’s also the real sense of what teamwork is all about, of everyone being dependent on each other to deliver something.”

FURTHER INFORMATION

Communications & Information Technology Association
(formerly Telecommunications Industry Association)
www.cita.org.uk
01908 645000

Communications Management Association
www.thecma.com
01372 361234

e-skills UK (sector skills council for IT & telecoms industries)
www.e-skills.com
020 7963 8920

Learn Direct (for information on courses)
www.learndirect.co.uk
0800 100 900
www.learndirectscotland.com
0808 100 9000

Remembrance

Every November, the nation pauses to remember those who have fallen in conflict, but what does Remembrance mean to those who have served in Britain’s Armed Forces?

WORDS: PAUL F COCKBURN

Brittle yellows, reds and browns fall to the ground; warm coats are pulled out from the backs of wardrobes; and dusk comes earlier than feels fair – all the vanguard of the autumnal weeks when people of all ages pin paper poppies to their lapels in a public display of remembrance of those who have died in the defence of the nation.

It was King George V who suggested, in 1919, that the British people should observe two minutes of ‘respectful silence’ to mark the first anniversary of the Armistice that had ended ‘The Great War’ on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Almost immediately linked with the poppies that grew in the battlefield, the nation’s annual Remembrance quickly became not just a tribute to those who have died but also an invaluable fund-raising opportunity for the Royal British Legion which helps support still-living veterans and their families.

The best part of a century later – a century that has seen British Forces fight around the globe during the Second World War, and subsequently in Korea, Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan – the public act of Remembrance is more popular than ever, despite most people in the UK no longer having a direct connection with either war or the nation’s Armed Forces.

THE SOLDIER’S VIEW

Some commentators are still amazed that this national desire for Remembrance hasn’t simply faded away as the Second World War generation has slowly died; in fact, the last decade has seen the opposite. Although Remembrance Sunday has been the preferred day for ‘official’ commemorations since the end of the Second World War, the decision in 1995 to also revive the two minute silence on Armistice Day has proved to be just as universally accepted.

But what does Remembrance mean to those who have actually served in Britain’s Armed Forces, who have seen friends and colleagues killed or injured in the line of duty?

Alex Heron and Donald Campbell are two veterans who share a connection with the Scottish military charity Erskine. For 91 year old Alex, Erskine has been his home for several years; for Donald, Erskine’s his new employer, following a 26 year career in the British Army.

POW

Alex was born just months before that first act of National Remembrance; in 1937 he signed up ‘to see the world’ with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. Following training in Inverness and Catterick, Alex had a ‘magic’ year serving in India; this was brought to an end by the outbreak of the Second World War, during which the Cameron Highlanders fought in the deserts of Egypt. “All the bullets and the planes coming,” Alex remembers, “you just had to lie on the ground – it was all sand, you couldn’t dig a hole. We wore gas masks during the sandstorms, and you were just firing away with guns…”

He was among the Allied Forces who were unexpectedly captured at Tobruk by Lieutenant-General Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps. Subsequently, he spent three and a half years in Axis prisoner of war camps – a year in Italy before being moved into Germany as Allied Forces fought their way up the Italian Peninsula. Strange as it might seem, he says he preferred the German POW camp, if only because the Red Cross food parcels sent to them were not intercepted by Italian soldiers.

Alex always takes part in Erskine’s own Remembrance commemoration. “When it comes to the two minutes silence, you just think back to all your comrades getting shot and wounded,” he says. “Some friends got shot or injured. You stand there, it goes through your mind, all your pals who got shot and blown up. The prison camps were terrible; you cannae forget it.”

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE

Alex, who was ‘demobbed’ soon after the end of the Second World War, and returned to a family who hadn’t known if he was dead or alive for nigh on five years, is pleased that the British public continues to publicly remember its war dead. “Oh yes, we should,” he says. “It’s a good thing to have, Remembrance.”

For the manager of Erskine’s new Supported Transition project, Donald Campbell, Remembrance has long been a part of his life, from Boys’ Brigade and Air Cadet parades as a kid to during his 26 years in uniform. But, as he points out, Remembrance is not just a one-day event for many Services personnel. “I remember quite a few things throughout the year; most soldiers will have days when they lost colleagues, friends – that sort of stuff.”

When on Operations, of course, a formal Remembrance ceremony is not always possible. “We would always try and have a moment,” he says. “Sometimes in the midst of war or conflict, that could only be five minutes. If you had the capability, you would have a parade, just to mark the passing – however, most times it would be just getting people together, having a five minutes, just a quiet think with the boss, the Platoon commander or OC just saying a few words.”

PART OF RESETTLELMENT

Donald goes as far as suggesting that Remembrance will play an important part in his resettlement into civilian life. “Remembering things is a good way to put things to bed,” he says. “Not fully, because you always have the thought in your mind of people who have gone before you, who have been lost and it’s just good to have that little remembrance.”

This November, for the first time in decades, Donald will stand at a cenotaph as a civilian. “That’s going to be very strange,” he admits. “What’s even more poignant is that my battalion will actually be in Afghanistan, and it’s the first time in 26 years I’ve not deployed with the battalion. So I’ll be standing there thinking not just about people of the past, but also people who are out there now.”

Like Alex, Donald believes it’s important that Remembrance remains such a part of British life. “Up to about 10 years ago, Remembrance parades were mostly about the First and Second World Wars,” he says. “Now with Afghanistan being in the forefront, a lot of people are now looking at the present day Remembrance. There are a lot of new people getting involved with Remembrance, and I think it is very beneficial that the country as a whole remembers our fallen.”

HAL Training

HAL Training Services, is a very successful name in the Refrigeration & Air Conditioning sector. Established in 1993 by Nigel Parkin and Stuart Ellis

HAL Training Services, is a very successful name in the Refrigeration & Air Conditioning sector. Established in 1993 by Nigel Parkin and Stuart Ellis, the company is an approved training provider for the Career Transition Partnership; Ellis is an assessor for Construction Skills and City & Guilds 2078/2079, is qualified to City & Guilds D32, D33, D34 and has a D36 accreditation of prior learning. He is extremely patient and highly enthusiastic about all aspects of Refrigeration providing “up to the minute” information and training.

HAL can offer you a choice of training courses: their popular 10 day course now includes the new F-Gas regulations. To compliment this course HAL have introduced an extra five days of electrical instruction and certification, the City & Guilds 17th Edition 2382. This 15 day course is a complete training package that will give you the  necessary certification for entering the fast growing Refrigeration and Air Conditioning sector.

HAL is proud of its 98% pass rate. This course has a level three outcome which has been ELCAS approved, and has a client list of individual people, small companies, large organisations and multi nationals. On attending a HAL training course you will be assured of a warm and friendly welcome.

For further information and codddurse dates call 01302 883 276 or visit www.hal-training.co.uk.

Suits You

Every man should own a suit – it underpins the formal part of your wardrobe and can serve you well at job interviews, help you pull a bridesmaid and cover you for those events where jeans and tucked in shirt just don’t cut it!

In an ideal world we’d have all the dosh to get properly fitted with a suit – insuring the perfect fit and style. Ever ready go to that extra mile for Civvy Street’s readers, I recently was fitted for a new suit by online-based tailors A Suit That Fits.Com – and they also let me in on a few tips about what to look out for – whether you’re hiring or buying off the peg on the high street.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Fabric is crucial. A 100% wool suit is ideal since it’s natural, breathes well and looks the business. Brett, a tailor from A Suit That Fits advises: “If you’re on a budget go for something in plain wool. It’s got good all round use and starts at £160 for a two piece with us.”

Despite suggestions from some colleagues to go for bright red, I plump for a classic chocolate brown. “Brown in town is always a good thing,” Brett agrees. Well it rhymes, so it must be true! The lining presents a few more difficulties. I don’t want to look like either a game show host or a tree, so green’s out, as is duck-egg blue – too Queen Mother (God rest her) – and turquoise (too minty).

The final choice is between a paisley pattern (too “busy”), dusty pink and a sky blue. I like the pink but I’m drawn to the blue. “You should always go with your first gut instinct with these things,” says Brett. “With lining you need to be flamboyant or subtle and not land in-between.” So blue it is then.

STYLE

Single or double breasted? Contrary to remembered tradition Brett insists that double-breasted on slimmer people can work very well and looks good. “It’s not just for the slightly bigger guys; in fact in most cases it’s a trend: slightly shorter jacket, quite fitted, slim trousers can look amazing,” he says. In a moment of Jeeves-like advice, however, he advises me to go single-breasted. “You wouldn’t wear double breasted to everything,” he explains. “You could wear your single breasted jacket on occasion with jeans and brown shoes, or cords. Keep it useful.”

Collar: “A good look is a peak collar,” says Brett. “Slightly more trendy at the moment and good on single breasted. It’s traditional on double breasted. A peak collar is a pointed collar. A notched collar has a cutaway edge. It’s really smart on every suit. Keep it plain, not too much hand stitching on the peak- it can look a bit too much.”

Buttons: “Probably two for winter,” according to Brett. “You tend to wear more with a suit at that time of year (such as an overcoat). You could wear a scarf and tuck it in, for example.”

Buttons on cuff: Brett suggests that three or four is standard. “To me if you put two on the cuff it looks as if the others have fallen off,” he says. “Unless you see that one is working, two ordinary ones just look like you haven’t sewn the missing ones back on. Not a good look.”

Single or double vent? “Single gives a nice slim profile at the back,” says Brett. “If you have a fitted jacket and a double vent it might become a bit dovetailed. It opens up on the sides of your ‘seat’. Most of the suits in the UK are double simply because of the horse riding traditions. Not too many people ride horses in jackets these days!”

Waist: In the great tradition of British tailoring this sensitive measurement is taken in unbreakable silence. My suggestion is that your trousers are the right size if you can slide two fingers into the waist and still feel comfortable. If you can adjust your janglies without anyone noticing your waist measurement is too big. It’s not a ‘nice’ habit to get into anyway!

ACCESSORIES

With the suit itself sorted, I asked Brett for his views on wearing peanut butters (brown tan shoes) with black or grey suits. “I don’t like that look,” he admits. “It looks strange. Black shoes with black or grey suits and chocolate brown or tan shoes with brown suits.”

My own experience tells me that, when it comes to ties, plain is a safe, smart bet – comedy ties are an invitation for people to consider you an idiot!

Even if cash is tight, this may be a good time to buy a more expensive suit. After all, if it becomes everyday wear for work, it’s going to wear out, sooner or later. Cheap suits wear out faster, so in the long run it may be more economical to purchase a good suit that will stand more punishment. As my mum used to say: “Buy cheap; buy twice!”

SUITS YOU?

A Suit That Fits.com offers a fully online guide to measuring yourself for a suit. “Some get it right and some get it a little bit wrong,” Brett sights. “Some get it so far out that you think – what did you measure? For the most part it’s fine, though. About 30% of our business is online. A lot of our customers will get measured initially and just carry on with an online profile after that; nice and easy.”

Suddenly all of the mystery behind the process has been eradicated, although the fun is still there. Selecting the details is part of the magic of having a suit made to measure. Having an expert on hand, though, is really useful!

Just before we parted company, though, Brett said something that really bothered me, being the owner of a wardrobe bulging with unloved gear. “Most men tend to buy too much clothing,” he said. “They don’t buy the necessary bits, like a good leather jacket, a good pair of jeans, a good pair of boots, a good pair of black shoes and a good pair of brown shoes and a couple of white shirts. That’s all you need if you mix and match it. A couple of big scarves, a couple of styles of hat and you’re absolutely sorted for the whole year but most men tend to buy a million things but don’t wear any of it because they don’t know how to put it together. That’s the problem.”

It doesn’t rhyme but it does make a lot of sense!

MORE:

www.asuitthatfits.com

JUST THE JOB

Andy Beatie of Slaters explains a package offered through the JobCentre designed to help you look your best at interview.

“When someone signs on they are given an advisor who organises half a dozen interviews for them. The JobCentre sends them to us safe in the knowledge that they’ll be handled properly – they won’t send them to interview without a complete package which consists of a suit, shirt, tie and shoes. They come in all shapes and sizes, so we have the facility to tailor-make the suit for that individual, so that he represents himself in the best possible light.”

MORE: www.slaters.co.uk