Hi, my name’s Gareth and I have just spent four years studying engineering at South Essex College and this is my story.
I was a print finishing operator in a factory, and had been in similar roles for ten years. It wasn’t really taking me anywhere so, as I was quite mechanically-minded, I was looking for a role that was more challenging and varied. I realised that the best way to do it would be to go back to college and gain another qualification.
I really enjoyed my time at the College, the staff have always been excellent and I have had really good support. The facilities and equipment are fantastic and are backed up with experienced and knowledgeable staff from industry to enable us to get the best out of our studies and to apply what we are learning to use out in industry.
I moved on to the HNC in General Engineering and over those two years also took on both the Level 2 and 3 City & Guilds in Electrical Installation.
The first year of my BTEC Level 3 I was still working as a machine operator, taking my day releases as unpaid leave and having to make my hours up which just added pressure, but I was fortunate in that towards the end of my first year I got myself into an engineering role with quite a big company.
Now I work as a print finishing engineer. I’ve moved from operating machines to breakdowns, maintenance and operator training. My career potential has opened up massively. In the last 16 months I have travelled abroad with work having never been abroad beforehand – I didn’t even have a passport. Four years ago I was working in a factory and on Sunday I fly out to Japan to train on a new machine.
I would absolutely encourage people to return to education. If you have taken a break from education to go into a job, if you are not sure what you want to do with the rest of your life it is never too late to make a change. I was 32 when I enrolled to go back to College and I’m aspiring to my Batchelor’s Degree and I will probably be 45 by then, but it is never too late.
My ambition is to do my HND and work towards getting my Batchelor’s Degree, maybe even a Masters. It just comes down to how far I am prepared to push myself. The thing that I have found the most inspirational is the passion of the staff who have really engaged. I have been very fortune in having excellent teachers who have really made me want to know more and push myself and excel. It has been a huge thing for me, I never would have thought when I was 16 leaving school that I would be here, now at this stage as a distinction-level student. The motivation that I have got from the staff has been a massive factor for me.