My story Ben Chandler
Foundation Diploma in Art and Design Level 4 Diploma

Ben Chandler

My name is Ben Chandler, I am 20 years old, I studied the Level 4 Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at South Essex College from 2014 to 2015, and this is my story.

I was very much into art throughout my entire education, figurative painting was my core; I spent many hours improving my technical ability and style, during and after school. Nearing the end of Sixth Form I found myself wanting something more than painting figures with realistic renderings so I began painting more gesturally with the palette knife and visiting more contemporary galleries to understand abstraction and conceptual art. It probably wasn’t the best time to change, but it worked out ok!

In essence, the art that I knew  became less engaging for me because I was asking what art was. Figurative painting is a perfectly valid art form by the way, but it was time to move onto something else, something new. I wanted to know what other forms of art there was; the result could have been hating anything new I saw or made, but keeping an open mind in attempt to try and understand was the main objective, and doing so at College changed my practice forever.

After College I went straight to Birmingham City University on the BA (Hons) Fine Art course in 2015 and am looking to graduate in 2018. The areas I am occupied by right now are sculpture (wood, metal), text, and film. I have become a student academic leader for the Level 4 cohort so my responsibility is to pass peer feedback to members of staff and help put it into effect. A handful of peers and I have also just started a student-led, extracurricular drawing class with traditional life drawing and experimental drawing methods for both practice and a challenge!

An open creative space for youths in Birmingham has just opened, so I am looking to get involved In that too. It is a very busy time for me.

I chose South East Essex College because the College campus was the closest place to me that ran the course, and I was completely sold when I visited an open evening for the course. It always seemed to have events going on, the work produced in the art spaces was exciting, and the Southend campus had an amazing design, it was always inspiring to see it every day. I was also very fond of the College’s progressive attitude towards equality and acceptance, an environment and ethic I will always get behind.

Whilst there I learnt more about my subject than I could have anticipated which made me more able to apply myself effectively and efficiently in the arts. My confidence, organisation, time management, decisiveness, critical analysis, and knowledge all matured from my short time here. Working alongside other creative individuals not only expanded my knowledge but also my understanding of a wider variety of people; students come from all over so I felt I achieved an empathetic development, something that can help me work well with others, even if I do not know them well at first.

Having the opportunity to specialise in the subject you love is a really special opportunity. You get access to a wide variety of facilities, machines, materials, and tutors who really know what they are doing, you can really play. Your passion for your subject is mutual with others, and working beside them gives you a wonderful experience.

At the College my confidence, organisation, time management, decisiveness, critical analysis, and my knowledge all got significantly stronger. I have also gained an interest in reading, as weird as that sounds I did not particularly enjoy it, yet finding themes I did enjoy increased my interest and endurance with reading when it comes to contextual research. Libraries are crucial, I highly advise everyone to use them frequently, your vocabulary and ability to filter information will benefit.

The computer software and machinery in the workshops are very much what you will expect beyond College, and it is free access. Depending on your situation in the industry, using certain equipment will involve costs that you may not have to pay at College. It is important that they are used as often as possible to pick up all the techniques you can because they definitely translate over into University and the Industries, and you’ll make efficient decisions regarding cost and your art.

My favourite memory of the College I guess has to be when the cohort’s final exhibition finally opened to the public, with an incredibly successful private view. All of the build-up was so worth it, it was a truly euphoric moment to show my work alongside the work of my friends, and have it resolve with celebrations in the pub. All the drawing sessions, tutorials, intense philosophical discussions at lunch, creative risks paying off, it was all worth it.

South Essex College is progressive, supportive, and really gets you engaged. Young people have passions but may not have the drive or confidence to pursue it within education, the College is really good at nurturing these passions. The equipment and accessibility is fantastic and gets you experienced for university. It isn’t a college that is afraid to try new things, the course structure changes to fit with the time and always tries to give the students challenges to better themselves.

My greatest achievement has to be my rapid, personal development within one year, it is still staggering to me; how I think and the work I make is nothing like what it used to be, and for the better. One’s journey can have many rises and dips, but the course caused a hectic acceleration upward. I am a better person than before, I got nominated to be in UAL's 'Origins' exhibition in London which was fantastic, but you don’t get them for nothing. Your self-directed development is key.

In the future I aim to be happy, surrounded by the creative friends I have made, and be in a situation where I can keep improving and exhibiting my art. That is it.

There is no doubt that my time at the College has helped me embrace mistakes and work meticulously until I get the results I want. It has strengthened my interest in the arts and supporting others in the arts, too. With desire to see as much work as I can, it has increased my desire to travel and be more independent, and I hope to influence others to feel this way.

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My story Jamie Slack
BTEC Engineering Level 3 Diploma

Jamie Slack

My name is Jamie Slack, I am 32 years old, and this is my story.

I studied a BTEC in Engineering at South Essex College from 2000 until 2002 at Basildon college, just before Basildon and Thurrock college merged together.

I passed my BTEC with one distinction, six merits and five pass qualifications, from a total of 12 different engineering subjects.

After completing my course at Basildon College I wanted to further my knowledge in engineering and my BTEC qualification helped me acquire a position on Ford Motor Company’s advanced four- year apprenticeship scheme at the Centre of Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence (CEME). I chose this particular scheme because it gives broad-based training across numerous mechanical and electrical skills, thus giving me an excellent foundation for my future career. 

I gained a BTEC National Certificate (ONC) in Manufacturing Engineering and a NVQ level 2 in engineering operations. In addition various City and Guilds qualifications were awarded too.

The final two years of my apprenticeship were carried out at the Ford Engineering and Research Centre, Dunton. Within this period I was awarded Apprentice of the Year 2007, East of England Region presented by the LSC (Learning Skills Council). Gained a NVQ level 3 in engineering operations and started a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Manufacturing Engineering. I then became a qualified electrical/mechanical engineer on completion of training. 

I was then given a job at the Materials Technology Centre at the Ford Engineering and Research Centre, Dunton. My primary function was the manufacturing of jigs and tooling required for the testing of material samples. I then requested another job role within the lab preparing material samples for subsequent detailed analysis and assisting metallurgists.

After completing my Foundation Degree in Manufacturing Engineering I then gained a BEng (Honours) in automotive engineering. 

My current role within the lab is a Metallurgist. I am involved in the forensic investigation of components. This includes Power Train, chassis, body and electrical systems from program development, testing, manufacturing, launch, in-service, critical concern and legal investigations.  I am also required to examine samples to detect surface and internal flaws, plus determine micro-structural features, evaluate heat treatments and assure conformance to required specifications. In addition I carry out root cause failure analysis when performance issues occur.

Studying engineering has given me the drive, confidence and determination to succeed.

Because I enjoy a challenge, I decided to start my own online Astrology business in 2010 called JKS Astrology. I first studied the foundations of astrology when I was 16 years old. Throughout the years I have advanced my knowledge, especially in the areas of natal, synastry and predictive astrology. What was first a hobby then become an obsession, spending many hours doing astrology readings for people from all walks of life. My methodical approach gained through engineering disciplines combined with superb intuition makes me a unique astrologer.

I chose to study at South Essex College because it offered excellent engineering courses and facilities. Many of my friends also recommended the College as the quality of tuition is fantastic.

The College has made me a determined individual with a positive and flexible attitude to assuming new roles and responsibilities. In the workplace these are essential skills to have. After completion of my course I was enthusiastic to learn new disciplines. 

I use my experience gained from South Essex College to guide others in their personal development and show them the benefits that can be attained with the necessary dedication. I aspire to carry on giving 100% effort to any task I undertake and be self-disciplined in my work.

South Essex College provided the foundations for my engineering knowledge. I was able to build upon these foundations and strengthen my knowledge further in the field of engineering.

I remember the equipment at College being state of the art for its time. This is essential for any college as learning the newest techniques is essential. But they also demonstration older devices and machines, so we would not be caught out in the real world. 

Engineering is a fascinating subject. I enjoyed some of the practical lessons the most and the way they were demonstrated was excellent.

It is possible I would not have got into Ford Motor Company if I hadn’t achieved my BTEC in engineering at South Essex College. Getting into a company like Ford is very competitive, especially as I did not have fantastic GCSE qualifications, only achieving a C in maths, English and science. I believe my BTEC gave me an edge, and helped to boost me confidence and knowledge.

College made me realise I am capable of learning anything. Engineering is a great subject because it covers many different disciplines. I then started to realise you could apply engineering disciplines to completely different subjects, such as astrology. To show you what I mean, let me define what an engineer: ‘is someone who is concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics, and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical, societal and commercial problems.’

I believe these skills are relevant to astrology as the fundamental basics of astrology is about observing patterns and cycles.

In the future I will continue to learn and challenge myself in my work life and my personal life.