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Clive is a former Petroc (East Devon College) student and is the current Leader of Mid Devon District Council
My father taught engineering at East Devon College in the late 1950s, so from an early age I can remember visiting the college (which at that point was on Fore Street). The college was a technical and arts college, and there were only three other members of staff working there when my father joined! In 1964 the college moved to its current site on Bolham Road and shortly afterwards my father became Vice Principal.
I went to Tiverton Grammar School, before starting at East Devon College in 1976 to study A Levels and also top up on my O Levels. I did A Levels in Government & Politics, History and English, alongside O Level Social Economics and English Language.
Frank Rosamond was my Head of Department (and is also a current Mid Devon District Councillor), Paul Denham was my politics lecturer, Mr Jenkins taught me English and Dr Hoffman taught History. Pat Barham was also a lecturer.
In terms of the structure of the college, I don’t think anything is there now that was there when I was at college. Although, I do know that my father drew up the plans for what is now C Block and the Reception area, although that was built after both he and I had left the college.
At college, the student common room was the hub of all social activity and I spent a lot of hours in there with my friends. We shared the refectory with the high school and I remember having to walk over there every lunchtime.
I played football whilst at college, although I was never particularly good and only ever made the B Team. I also remember that the student discos at Tiverton Hotel were a highlight of the college calendar, along with various trips. Two trips which stand out are the visit to the Royal Albert Hall and also a residential to France at the end of college.
Although I didn’t actually get very good grades, I did manage to get the O Levels I needed, including an O Level in Government and Politics (as I didn’t quite get enough points for the A Level).
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after college but, fortunately, Paul (my politics tutor) was able to set me up an interview with Vapormatic – an exporter of tractor parts - and I managed to get a job in telephone sales. I worked my way up to sales administrator, and ended up staying with the company for five years.
Although I was grateful for the experience at Vapormatic, I was more than ready to move on after five years. Tele sales wasn’t for me! So, I then joined a finance company – Associates Capital – before moving to United Dominions Trust, then part of the TSB group in Exeter which later merged with Lloyds and HBOS, where I stayed for 25 years.
As well as shaping my work career, Paul Denham also had a big influence on my political career. He was a Liberal and I think, although obviously not intentionally, this naturally came across in his lectures.
When I was living in Tiverton in 1983 an opportunity arose to be a councillor for Tiverton Town Council. I had always been interested in contributing to the community and helping make a difference, so, as a member of the Liberal Party, I became a councillor and stayed with Tiverton Town Council for four years, before stepping down to move to Morchard Bishop.
In 1991 I stood for the Parish Council as a Liberal Democrat and was elected. At the same time I also stood for the District Council, but was beaten by an Independent. I also stood in 1995 and 1999, but, again, was beaten both times!
In 2003 I stood down from the Parish Council, as I moved to Black Dog.
At that point I decided to try for the District Council again, and this time got elected with a 33 vote majority in Taw Vale Ward (the parishes of Lapford and Chawleigh). I was then re-elected in 2007 with a far greater majority of 343.
During my time as a District Councillor, the village school in Chawleigh – my son’s school – was being closed down by Devon District Council. This was a very difficult time for me, as this was being supported by my own party, The Liberal Democrats, but was obviously not a popular decision within my own Ward. It was at this point that my love affair with the Liberal Democrats started to wane.
A month before the general election in 2010 I joined the Conservative Party. I didn’t know how the change would go down, but in 2011 the community backed me with an increased majority. Over the years I’ve come to learn that people are often loyal to a person and what they do for the community.
I became part of the Cabinet focusing on the Working Environment and Support Services and a couple of years later my attention was on the Environment, where I was responsible for car parking, waste and recycling.
In 2013 the Mid Devon Conservatives leader stood down, and I was subsequently elected as leader of the party before becoming Leader of Mid Devon District Council in October 2014. I was re-elected Leader in May 2015. This is a four year position.
Going back just 10 years, I could never have envisaged being leader of the Council. I feel honoured to be in this position, and take my role incredibly seriously. I take great pleasure in listening to the community and enjoy being in a position to be able to have an influence and make a difference for the people of Mid Devon.
I truly believe that Tiverton is ‘on the up’. It’s an exciting place for young people with potentially many job opportunities arising in the future. I really want to spread the message that young people can study here in Tiverton and have a long, successful career, without having to move away.
My career path has clearly been shaped by my keen interest in politics, so I owe a lot to Paul Denham for igniting this passion and also highlighting the importance of supporting your local community. The years 16-18 are very formative and I think these years at college were an important time for me, not only in terms of figuring out what I wanted to do in my career, but also in terms of personal and social development. I look back on my time at college with fond memories; it was a very happy time in my life.
Michael studied at our Mid Devon Campus and is now working with the Liberal Democrats in Wales.
Former A Level student
Mid Devon Campus
When were you at Petroc?
I studied at Petroc from 2009 until 2012.
What did you study?
Law, English Language and Literature, Communications & Culture and Sociology.
What were your highlights from your time at college?
One highlight was being able to be a student ambassador, and help advertise the college at open days and events.
The big one for me though has to be serving as Student Union President in my final year and being able to make a difference to the student body as a whole.
What did you go on to do directly after college? How did college prepare you for that?
I attended the University of Stirling and studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Petroc was really helpful with preparation - the standard of academic work is not that far below university level, which meant the transition was easier than expected. You are supported a lot at Petroc to improve your academic skills, so you can do your best in later life!
Please give a brief description of your career to date and what you’re doing now…
I finished my degree in 2015, and luckily got a job pretty quickly with the Liberal Democrats. For the last eight months, I’ve been working with a Member of Parliament and running election campaigns in Wales, which has been an amazing experience. As a first job, straight out of university, it takes some beating!
What are your plans, career-wise, for the future?
I would like to move more into Policy and Research work, preferably with the government or in third-sector organisations. I’d also like at some point to study for a Masters and PhD, but that’s a long way off yet!
Corey studied at the Mid Devon Campus before going on to open his own business
How long has your business been running? My business, CJ Autos, has been operational for around 18 months and it’s going really well.
How did you see the business expanding in the future? We've only just moved into a bigger workshop with two bays and an MOT test area, so hopefully the amount of business will continue improving.
Why did you choose to come to Petroc? I was originally studying carpentry at Somerset College of Arts and Technology. I then got talking to Nigel Maynard – one of the Motor Vehicle lecturers at the Mid Devon Campus – who suggested I look into studying a Motor Vehicle course. I've always been interested in cars so in hindsight a carpentry course wasn't the best bet for me.
How did your learning at Petroc benefit your studies? The staff at Petroc were fantastic really went out of their way to help me. It was actually the lecturing staff which helped me secure my first apprenticeship, and to be honest I've never looked.
Which elements of your study program did you particularly enjoy? I really enjoyed the practical aspects rather than the theoretical bits. I wanted to be on the spanners rather than sat in the classroom, but to be honest it was theory I had to learn to develop my career. I went back to see the facilities at the Mid Devon Campus recently and I couldn’t believe how good it is; it makes me wish I was a few years younger so that I could have taken advantage of them.
What were the highlights of your course? The highlight has to be getting my apprenticeship. Cars has always been a passion of mine so being offered the chance for me to make a career of out of it has been absolutely fantastic.
What advice could you give to anyone looking to study at Petroc? Work hard and remain motivated and focussed. Also, if somebody gives you the opportunity to take an apprenticeship you should absolutely jump at the chance – it could change your life!
Owen was an A Level and HNC student at our North Devon Campus, and is now Company Director at Aero Stanrew
Owen was an A Level and HNC student at our North Devon Campus, and is now Company Director at Aero Stanrew. Here he talks about his educational journey and his career to date...
“I studied Maths and Physics at A Level, as well as an AO in Electronics, at North Devon College [now Petroc].
I then took the decision not to go away to university, and instead applied for jobs with local electronics companies. I’d always had an interest in electronics, and at the time I was really into music and played in a rock band, so used to spend time working on the guitars, amps and other electrical equipment. That would definitely be one piece of advice I would give to any student; make sure you choose something that you are genuinely interested in, as it makes studying and working far more enjoyable!
Shortly after leaving college, I started at Aero Transformers [now Aero Stanrew] as a Test Engineer and was encouraged to return to college to study a four-year HNC in Electronics. This helped give me the skills needed to progress rapidly through the company, and in 1989 I became a Production Engineer and by 1994 I had been promoted to an Engineering Manager. I had always had the technical skills, but the people skills came less naturally to me, so during this period I also completed people management and project management training. Then, in 2001, I was appointed as Company Director, at the age of 32 – an achievement which still makes me incredibly proud.
Here in the South West I believe we have the highest concentration of aerospace companies in the UK. There are many relatively small companies, like us, who are very agile and able to move quickly to respond to technological developments and trends. That makes it a very exciting industry to be involved in; it never stands still.
Currently, electrically-driven systems are a key area of development for us. There is a huge shift towards removing conventional engines and replacing them with electric alternatives, and this is creating massive opportunities for fast-paced companies like ourselves.
As an employer, I am always very keen to support apprenticeships. We currently have both engineering and electronics apprentices in a variety of roles here at Aero Stanrew. It’s very rare that you find someone who is ready to employ with all the skills needed to meet our very specific requirements, so for us it’s essential to take on apprentices and shape them to fit our business. I appreciate this takes time, but this investment is vital to maintain the high-quality, bespoke service that we offer our customers.
Looking to the future, I think it’s very important that we maintain strong relationships with education providers. If we can forecast upcoming technical requirements and liaise with colleges and universities to help shape their curriculum and ensure the training is in place to meet demands within the industry, it benefits everyone.
We are also working with universities to support their development projects. There was a time, about 15 years ago, when our customers could do their own development work, but now it’s far more common for these research projects to fall to universities. By getting involved at the very early stages, producing hardware for their projects, we have a real insight into the future of the industry and can use this knowledge to benefit others.
Looking back at my career to date, there are many things I am proud of. For example, I designed products that flew on the first ever Airbus A380 – a definite career highlight!
I think the key to success in any industry is to have a good work ethic. As a manager it is important to be both dependable and adaptable. You have to understand the people you work with and be consistent and fair. Most importantly, I think you should lead by example and also accept the fact that you won’t always be right; take time to reflect and maybe change the way you do things next time, as that’s how you evolve and improve.”
Dune Simpson studied an Access Course at Petroc before moving on to Higher Education.
“When I undertook the Access course I did not imagine for one minute that I would end up graduating from Exeter University with a BA in History and I would never have even thought of applying. As the year progressed I surprised myself with my own enthusiasm and gradually gained more confidence. The tutors on the course inspired my confidence as much as the actual subject interest and achievement, a couple in particular.
What I enjoyed most was the opening up of a whole new world. In history we studied the Victorian period which was no new subject but when we did individual character and case studies the information and knowledge was new and inspiring. Literature was the same, although I had never studied Shakespeare previous to the course, I had to admit I was not that keen but just like the history it overtook me and the enthusiasm of the tutor, Cathy Slaughter, made it most enjoyable.
Although I graduated in June I still have no solid plans. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of employment opportunities in the immediate area and I am not in a position to relocate. I am still looking for part time work but I have also been working on an enterprise of my own which, although does not engage my academic skills I know I would never have had the confidence to pursue it if I had not studied and learned other skills along the way, which I will use, for example, time management and self-discipline.
In terms of advice what I would say is, make the commitment and apply yourself to the best of your ability. Even if the subject matter is not entirely your choice, embrace it and make the most of it. Also, talk to people about making choices in terms of subject selection if you’re not sure.
An Access course can be life changing if you want it to be!”
Richard Yeo attended North Devon College over 20 years ago, as an engineering apprentice with Parker Instrumentation. He now works for McLaren, and was recently invited back to the college to officially open the Engineering Centre of Excellence.
Richard Yeo attended North Devon College over 20 years ago, as an engineering apprentice with Parker Instrumentation. He now works for McLaren, and was recently invited back to the college to officially open the Engineering Centre of Excellence.
Here, he talks about his time as an apprentice and his career to date…
“I remember my first day at college really well, as it was raining, and I had to cycle from Landkey, then make the climb up the hill to the front gates.
At the age of sixteen, I wasn’t sure if I had made the right choice for a career, and never could I have imagined that I would end up at McLaren, one of the top automotive and F1 engineering companies in the UK.
My path from this college, to McLaren, has been a mixture of hard work, determination and a will to succeed.
From a young age, I can remember having a passion for cars and engineering, but obviously lacked the knowledge, skills and information to know what to do with that passion. I often watched F1, and thought how cool it would be to do a job like that, but never knew how.
When I started here, my apprenticeship was sponsored by Parker instrumentation, who I owe so much to, having given me the opportunity to study engineering, and also to continue working for them after I qualified. I subsequently spent a further five years at Parker, before I made the big leap and left Barnstaple for Swindon, not really knowing if this decision was the right thing to do.
The position in Swindon was a lucky break really (!), as it was M.O.D work, and they were willing to take a chance and train me to program their CNC machines. I worked there for two years as a CNC programmer, making various components for nuclear submarines and nuclear power stations.
While I was in Swindon, I read a book on the McLaren F1 road car, and this prompted me to take a look at their website. Whilst browsing their site, I took a look at the job section, and to my amazement, they had about 60 positions going for a new project; the McLaren SLR supercar.
I posted off my CV, thinking nothing would come of it - like many other applications I had made in the past - then, low and behold, two weeks later I received an invite to an assessment day at Brooklands College in Surrey.
After passing the assessment day, I was invited to a one-on-one interview, which resulted in me being offered the role of vehicle build technician, which I immediately accepted, with a big smile.
Now, 12½ years later, I’m in charge of the prototype vehicle development workshop, where I get to build, test and drive all the upcoming projects, before they make it into the public eye, plus travel around the world doing so!"
Lee studied a Foundation Degree in Business at Petroc, and is now doing a Masters in Law at Exeter University.
Foundation Degree in Business
“I moved to the UK from America and none of my qualifications were transferable, so I was at a bit of a loss about what to do. I knew I wanted to study for a degree but wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it.
I’d heard that Petroc offered Higher Education courses, so I decided to come in for some careers guidance and ended up enrolling on the Foundation Degree in Business.
Without any formal qualifications, university was never an option for me and it’s definitely true what they say; you do hit that glass ceiling with no qualifications. Although I’d been successful in business – I managed four pubs in the local area – I knew that I’d have to return to study to take my career to the next level. Fortunately, Petroc took my experience into account when deciding whether to offer me a place, and didn’t just look at my previous qualifications.
I had always enjoyed studying and on the Foundation Degree I came into my own and ended up doing really well and progressed onto Plymouth University, where I got a First. I was apprehensive before making the switch from college to university, but the lecturers had prepared me well and the college works so closely with Plymouth, making the transition very smooth.
Doing the degree at college has opened up so many doors for me and I will always be indebted to Petroc. Thanks to the grades I got on my degree I was offered a place at Exeter University to study a Masters in Law. Many city law firms only recruit from Russell Group universities and, with no formal qualifications, I would never have gained a place at Exeter – the Foundation Degree was my route into this very competitive profession.”
George has just graduated from the Foundation Degree in Mechanical Design and Manufacture
Foundation Degree in Mechanical Design and Manufacture
“It took me a long time to decide what career path to follow, but eventually I chose the apprenticeship route and started as an engineering apprentice with Tyco in Bideford.
I then progressed onto the Foundation Degree in Mechanical Design and Manufacturing but, during my first year on the programme, the factory closed and, along with many friends and colleagues, I found myself unemployed.
Despite the uncertainty, I decided to carry on with my Foundation Degree, in the hope that I would find another engineering job locally. It was a long couple of months but eventually I found a job at Actavis.
They were really supportive of my study and, since completing my Foundation Degree, I have now embarked on a distance learning degree in engineering with Portsmouth University.
Engineering is such a broad field to enter, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s finding it hard to decide exactly which career path to follow. The knowledge I’ve gained from my Foundation Degree has opened up so many opportunities for me and the skills learnt on an engineering course are transferable to so many other career pathways.
The new engineering centre at the North Devon Campus looks excellent. Alongside the theory, hands-on experience is also a vital part of the degree, so it’s great that students will have the opportunity to learn in state-of-the-art, industry standard facilities; it’ll give them a real advantage when it comes to applying for jobs in the future.”
Lisa has just graduated from the Foundation Degree in Early Childhood Studies
Foundation Degree in Early Childhood Studies
“I enrolled on the foundation degree as I wanted to do something just for me. I work as a supervisor in a pre-school, and wanted to extend my knowledge and further develop my understanding of how children learn.
I have found the degree fascinating, and very relevant to what I do in my job. I now find myself adapting the way I do things, based on what I’ve learnt on the course.
By far the biggest highlight of the course, however, has been meeting all my fellow students. It was a small group and we have all been through a lot, and have really stuck together and supported each other throughout. We had all chosen the part time programme, which meant we were all trying to balance work and family life alongside studying.
It was certainly hard work, there’s no denying that, but it was such a rewarding course at the same time, and I feel I’m really able to make a difference at work with the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired throughout my time on the degree. In fact, I found the course so fascinating that I recommended it to my daughter, and she is now in her second year of study.
I’m now doing my final year of study, to gain a full BA Hons degree, at Plymouth University. I’m doing this via flexible, online learning and go once every half term for lectures.
I have no clear vision for the future yet, but something I do know is that having this qualification under my belt has opened up so many more options for me.”
Louise has just graduated on the BA Honours Degree in Professional Development (Creative Industries)
BA Honours Degree in Professional Development (Creative Industries)
“I completed the Foundation Degree in Fine Art a few years ago, and told my lecturer to let me know if the option ever came up to complete the full BA Honours degree in North Devon.
Fortunately, Petroc were given the go-ahead to offer the full degree and I signed up straight away. For me, going away to university was never an option, so I was delighted to be able to complete my degree at Petroc. And, I’m sure there are many other people in the same position as me, who now have access to qualifications that they could only ever dream of before.
As part of the Professional Development degree you get to work with students from Early Childhood Studies and Business, as well as fellow Creative Industries students. For me, this was one of the best parts of the course, as you got to see things from a different perspective and everyone was able to bring something different to the table.
I’m in my sixties, so at the moment I’m not planning on embarking on any more studying, but I’ll never say never! I’m currently focussing my efforts on getting commission work and developing my website.
In the future, I like the idea of working abroad, perhaps delivering workshops. I have connections in the Caribbean, so we’ll wait and see… Having those letters after your name really does give you that kudos and confidence to branch out into new areas and take your career to the next level."
We were delighted to welcome former student, Matthew Huxtable, back to our North Devon Campus this week, to talk to our Academic Academy and share his Oxbridge experience.
Matthew left Petroc in 2011 with straight A*s in Physics, Maths, Chemistry and Further Maths to embark on a degree at Cambridge University. Since leaving he has gained a first class degree in computer science and has just found out he got a distinction in his Masters.
“I visited Cambridge on an open day in 2009, and ever since then I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to study there if I got good enough grades. I was excited by the intellectual stimulation and amount of inspiring people at Cambridge.
I applied to Cambridge in 2010 and successfully secured an interview. At Cambridge you get two interviews – a general one to establish your character and how you would fit into the way of life at Cambridge, and a second, subject-specific interview to assess your knowledge and ability.
These interviews aren’t designed to catch you out! The interviewers just want to see your thought processes and how you deal with problem solving and approach new subjects. It’s really important in the interview to think out loud; even if you don’t get the answer they’re looking for they’ll be interested to hear your thought process and how you approach the question.
Remember, everyone who applies to Oxbridge has exceptional predicted grades and well-polished personal statements, so it really is the interview that’s the deciding factor, so make sure you demonstrate that you can think beyond the A Level syllabus and, most importantly, be genuine.
During my time at Cambridge I was part of St John’s College; one of the biggest colleges at the uni. Through the college I was able to get three years’ accommodation (which not all colleges offer), so this is something to bear in mind when researching which college to apply for.
I started on a natural science degree, but switched to computer science after the first term, as I felt this was more suited to my strengths.
I’ll be honest, I found the first year tough. I’m a shy person and don’t adapt well to change, so I found it a little overwhelming. Plus, there’s no settling-in period at Cambridge; you’re working from the off. Terms at Cambridge are only eight weeks long, compared to 12 at other unis, so the level of work is pretty intense.
By the second year, however, I’d got into my stride. By now I was used to the routine of lectures every day, 9am – 1pm, followed by supervisions in the afternoon with various people, such as PhD students. Because each college is fairly small at Cambridge you soon get to know everybody, including all the academic staff, so there’s always someone around to ask for help or advice.
It was a conscious decision to move back to the South West upon graduating. I was inundated with firms offering me jobs in Cambridge, but I didn’t want to be just another cog in a machine. I wanted a job with variety and where I felt valued.
I have been incredibly lucky, as I’ve just secured a job as a systems administrator at Sparx in Exeter. I realise these sorts of jobs don’t come up round here very often, so I feel very fortunate.
Sparx are an education research company that use technology, data and daily involvement in the classroom to scientifically investigate how we learn, so I’ll be directly applying what I’ve learnt at uni to a work situation.
By coming back and talking to students at Petroc I hope they can see that I was in their shoes four years ago and that going to Oxbridge isn’t something other people do – it’s something they can do if they put their mind to it.”
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