AN education chief who was inspired as a boy to follow his career path by a Keighley teacher retires this week.

Derek Whitehead, principal and chief executive officer of Leeds College of Building, says it was whilst at the town's Oakbank School – now Beckfoot Oakbank – that the seeds of his future life were sown.

"I always preferred hands-on learning and it was a teacher at Oakbank – David Carter – who told me I had a knack for passing on my knowledge and passion for the subject even at age 16," says Derek, who is retiring after 37 years working in further education and vocational skills training.

"I was always in the workshop after school and would help other students where I could, especially if the woodwork teacher wasn’t available.

"David stretched me to try more complex techniques. I made various furniture items, learned to French polish and even turned rosewood handles for a bedside oak cabinet that my parents still have to this day! He sowed the seed that I should teach others too, even though I tended towards being more practical than academic."

On leaving school, Derek became an apprentice carpenter and joiner.

But despite subsequently qualifying as a construction worker, his desire remained to teach.

His first teaching job was in the carpentry and joinery department at Keighley College, where he started in 1985.

After gaining various teacher training qualifications, he worked at Bolton College before returning to Keighley as head of construction and engineering.

In 2004, Derek was appointed deputy principal for curriculum and quality at Leeds College of Building – later becoming principal and CEO.

"Getting the deputy principal post was such a fantastic accolade – especially with Leeds being the only general further education college nationally that specialised in construction and the built environment education and training," he said.

"I felt like I was back to my roots – where industry training moulds individuals into construction specialists. I am a massive advocate for vocational skills training and the vast opportunities this can unlock.

"I have fully enjoyed all 18 years that I have spent at Leeds College of Building. And I’m delighted to be leaving it in good shape.

"I've lots of retirement plans with my wife Heather – who retired from her role as principal at Keighley College a few years ago. We’re very active, enjoying walking and spending time with family."