IMarEST Fellow, Rector of MLA College and the recently appointed Vice-Chair of the Engineering Council Board, John Chudley shares his best career advice, collaborating with the UN – and the importance of continuing professional development.
Tell us about your current roles
I am Rector of MLA College, a higher education institution serving the requirements of the marine and maritime industries through offering distance learning programmes. I have also recently become Vice-Chair of the Engineering Council Board.
What do those roles involve?
The Rector is the highest-ranked administrative and educational leader in an academic institution, similar to that of a Vice-Chancellor in the UK. MLA College uses the term Rector as we are a global provider valuing “education beyond borders”.
Nominated by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST), I have served on the Engineering Council’s Board of Trustees since 2017 and I chair the Registration Standards Committee. My new role as vice-chair of the board will include supporting the implementation of the Engineering Council’s 2025 Strategy.
How did you get into the industry - and why?
I was fortunate to leave school at a time when apprenticeships were truly valued and celebrated by the education system. I was always going to undertake an engineering apprenticeship as my hobby was motocross – I needed to make my motorbikes lighter and faster!
My apprenticeship was with Teignbridge Propellers Ltd, and I couldn’t have been employed by a better company. I remain great friends with the owner-Directors who are ultimately responsible for my interest in the marine and maritime sector and were very supportive of me pursuing higher education.
What are the biggest trends in what people want to learn and study?
MLA College is quite unique in the higher education sector as our market is aimed at the marine professional wishing to develop their career. The average age of our students is 37. A number our students take routes to professional registration by using their industrial experience and certification to gain entry to relevant top-up Masters level qualifications.
These cover the requirements for all IMarEST registers in engineering, science, and technology. The demand is around professional development and the MLA approach of distance learning for true “education beyond borders”.
The pandemic has led to a number of providers shifting their content online without tailoring their approach, and this has resulted in some rather mixed offerings. Although a technology-led approach is used at the MLA, students remain at the heart, and learning outcomes and methods that keep students from around the globe connected are our priority.
We have also seen a number of organisations contacting MLA for courses in sustainability. In response we are launching a number of Global Sustainable Development programmes in collaboration with the United Nations (UN).
The programmes follow a pathway of activity that instils high expectations of study and research practice, leverages the power of open-source solutions to allow those students in developing nations to participate in the understanding of their world, and then take those lessons into their local communities to help them deliver, in small or large ways, against the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Tell us about your involvement with the IMarEST
I have been involved with the IMarEST since 1996. Since then, I have sat on most of the committees, Council and Board of Trustees. I have also acted as chair and secretary of the Devon and Cornwall Joint Branch. I feel very fortunate to have had this involvement as it has allowed me to develop professionally, create a global network and make true friends.
Through my IMarEST involvement, I am now Vice-Chair of the Engineering Council UK. It’s something I could never have dreamed of at the beginning of my career.
I also feel pressure to deliver a great outcome for individuals who study with MLA College as the IMarEST is a shareholder in the organisation.
What career advice has helped you?
I feel very fortunate to have been surrounded by individuals with a positive outlook on life and I have generally been encouraged to pursue a good idea or career change. David Duncan and David Hunt of Teignbridge Propellers Ltd encouraged me to develop as an individual and enjoy my career from those early apprenticeship days, even if it meant leaving the company.
Your advice to anyone thinking about studying to further their career?
You should never consider you are studying to further your career! Continuing professional development should be a given and a constant, and by default you will advance your career. Many of our students have told us that studying with MLA College has been deeply rewarding for boosting their confidence and providing a huge sense achievement.
Their qualifications with us have been invaluable in setting them up for their specialised careers and gaining professional recognition, as well as opening up opportunities for career advancements, which in turn has led to increased job satisfaction.