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Sam is on the Foundation Degree in Animal Conservation at our North Devon Campus
“I worked in childcare, in a nursery, for six years. Although I enjoyed it, I had always had a keen interest in animals and animal photography and wanted to make this my career.
However, I had no idea how to get into this area of work. I saw the Foundation Degree in Animal Conservation advertised at Petroc and made the snap decision to enrol.
This course offers so many opportunities for practical work experience, which you would expect. I have already worked with the National Trust carrying out essential work on Exmoor and a highlight of the course so far has to be the trip to South Africa, where we were able to track white rhino on foot. I’m fascinated by animal behaviour so to have an opportunity like this was incredible. I’m still not sure exactly what area I want to work in when I finish my course, but to have such varied work experience is really opening my eyes to all the different careers out there.
Earlier this year I took part in The Grierson Trust’s 2016 DocLab; a programme which gives up-and-coming documentary filmmakers the chance to learn the skills needed to succeed in the industry.
I have always been interested in both animal photography and filmmaking, and pitched a documentary idea that I had been thinking about for a while; a wildlife programme which isn’t dramatic or sensationalised but, instead, shows the day-to-day life of animals. I wanted to show the unknown aspects of wildlife that we take for granted.
They must have liked my idea, as I made the final 12 and was invited to take part in The Grierson Trust’s residential training days in Birmingham, where I had the opportunity to meet experts in the industry and take part in workshops to help improve my skills as a documentary maker. As part of DocLab I’ll also be embarking on a paid placement with a production company, which will be really interesting.
I still have another year of my Foundation Degree so I’m hoping that during next year, as I gain even more experience and take part in more work placements, I will gradually get a clearer idea of what direction I want my career to go in. I know that there are lots of varied opportunities here in Devon, so I have no plans to leave the area. I like the idea of working somewhere like Lundy Island, but we’ll have to wait and see what job opportunities are around when I finish my degree.”
Nikki Page is studying the Foundation Degree in Computing at our North Devon Campus.
Why did you choose to come to Petroc?
It was the location for sure; being so close makes it very convenient for me.
What made you pick this particular study programme?
I never chose a career when I left school. In a previous job I became interested in computers and soon went to another job where I was tasked to test faulty parts in computers. At the beginning I was tasked with thousands of item numbers which I would have to input by hand each and every day – very time consuming as you can imagine. After a short while I created a bespoke system which made the process of inputting the item numbers automated – it was at this point that I realised I wanted to become a developer.
I did apply for a number of jobs but I didn't have the qualifications required, so when I saw that Petroc offered the Foundation Degree in Computing I applied without hesitation.
Which elements of your study programme do you particularly enjoy?
I enjoy the programming side the most, particularly as it’s the aspect that I hold the most experience in.
What have been the highlights? Winning the Best Student Award in IT & Engineering at the college’s annual awards was a huge highlight. Because I'm a mature student, when I first applied I had no idea about the ability of the other learners and I was worried they would be well ahead. With this in mind, to get such an accolade was fantastic!
What do you most enjoy about studying at Petroc?
It’s a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. I've also had largely the same class throughout my time studying here, so it makes it easy to talk to likeminded people about the topic. In comparison to other Higher Education providers, our classes are much smaller so we're spoilt in terms of access to lecturers’ knowledge.
What do you plan to do when you immediately leave college?
I'm hoping that my studies will help me get a job in a SCRUM team – a group of developers that work together to find solutions to computer-based problems.
Advice for anybody thinking about studying the same course as you?
If it’s something that you want to do, do it as soon as possible. It's too easy to let time fly! As a mature student, I wish I had enrolled here sooner.
Carl is on the Foundation Degree in Fine Art at our University Centre in North Devon.
Foundation Degree in Fine Art
North Devon Campus
“I started the Level 2 art and design course as a bit of a risk. I’d been working for a while but knew art was what I really wanted to do.
My first tutors were wonderful - really supportive – and they spent a lot of time teaching me what it means to study art and become an artist.
After the Level 2 course I moved on to Access to HE, before applying for the Foundation Degree in 2014. I was really nervous – what if I wasn’t good enough? However, it sounds odd but it felt like this was calling to me! It was a strange moment in my life, and I felt quite lost, but I knew this was what I should be doing.
Originally I interviewed for Illustration, but after meeting Pete (Fine Art lecturer) I changed my mind. He said he could see real promise in me as a fine artist and encouraged me to take that route instead. Pete has been awesome, actually, giving me lots of advice not only about the projects I’m working on but also my career as a whole.
As a child I was always writing stories and illustrating them. I was quite introverted growing up, so this was my way of expressing myself and documenting my feelings. With art I can tell people how I feel in a subtle way – it’s the same even now. I find it very poetic and therapeutic.
In terms of my career, I’m still not sure what the next step will be after I finish my degree. I like the idea of working on album artwork, and have already worked with someone in America to produce their album cover. Either that, or producing promotional artwork for theatre productions.
Both last year and this year I’ve also done work experience at a school, working 1:1 with a young boy. I worked with him to bring out his artistic side, using art as a form of therapy. It was fascinating to see how creative and imaginative he was – as Pablo Picasso once said, ‘every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up!’ I did enjoy working in this teaching/therapy environment, so again this is another possible career option for after I graduate.”
Philippa is in the first year of a Foundation Degree in Fine Art at our University Centre in North Devon.
“I have two children and when my youngest started school I started thinking about returning to education.
My mum had recently done an Access to HE course through Petroc and thought that it would be perfect for me, too, so I went along for an interview to find out a bit more. I was worried that the timings of the course wouldn’t fit in with my family life, but the person I spoke to explained that the course could potentially be quite flexible so I decided to give it a go.
It was the best decision I could have made, as it gave me the skills needed to move straight onto the Foundation Degree in Fine Art. I’ve always loved art and was really interested in studying it further after school, but my life took a different path.
However, this was my second chance and I’m absolutely loving it. As you would expect, the Foundation Degree is more regimented and structured than the Access course, which means I have to be very organised and plan my time carefully. At the moment I have no social life (!) but I know it’ll all be worth it in the end.
I am in college from Mondays to Wednesdays, but then I quite often come in on Thursdays and Friday too, so I can get on with my work whilst my children are still at school. Because every student has their own workspace within the studio, it’s really easy to just come and go as you please.
My advice for anyone thinking about returning to education after a break would be to just go for it! I tend to look at it in six month slots and just focus on one project at a time; that way it’s a lot less overwhelming. The support from the staff at Petroc has been incredible, too, and they are always flexible where they can be to allow me to fit my studying in around my children.
I’m excited for the future. The Foundation Degree very much focusses on getting you thinking about how to find employment and make a living in this very competitive industry. Over the coming months I will start developing a website to showcase my work and, hopefully, by the time I finish my degree I’ll have a clear vision of what I want to do next.”
Suse Rolfe is studying the Foundation Degree in Animal Conservation at our North Devon Campus
Course: FdSc Animal Conservation
I came to Petroc because it's a college I've been to before and I'm familiar with the campus. It’s also close to home so that's another bonus.
And what made you pick this particular study programme/course?
Animal Conservation is something I've always been interested in, so when I heard about the new course starting last September I was keen to get involved. It sounded like something completely different to other degrees and also it provides the perfect challenge.
What elements of this study course do you particularly enjoy?
I love the fact that so much of the course is spent outdoors. Although certain aspects do have to be spent in the classroom, we’re out in the field doing practical stuff all the time. For example, this afternoon we're off to Exmoor Zoo!
What have been the highlights so far?
I really enjoyed the wet weather surveying we did a few months back. We were recording potential hazards or areas that could cause a problem in the future with sediment getting into the river, helping the stocks of freshwater pearl mussels as a result.
It’s a really friendly environment to work in and the lecturing staff are always really supportive. The library service is also very good and the team were helpful when it came to referencing.
What’s the long-term plan?
I'll study the full degree at Plymouth University once I've finished my Foundation Degree. After that I want to develop a career so I'll be on the job hunt.
Any advice for someone thinking of choosing the same course as you?
My advice is to read as much as you can about many different topics. The Foundation Degree in Animal Conservation is incredibly diverse and covers a multitude of areas.
Linda Quinn is currently on the Foundation Degree in Health & Social Care at our North Devon Campus
Foundation Degree in Health and Social Care
Year 2 - North Devon Campus
“I moved to North Devon 11 years ago. My husband and I came to Ilfracombe on holiday and ended up buying a pub, as you do!
At the time I had just applied to study midwifery in Manchester, but obviously this had to be put on hold once we moved. I did transfer my application to Exeter and was shortlisted, but didn’t get a place as they thought I was taking on too much.
Perhaps I would have been, as this proved to be a difficult time for me. My son found it hard to settle and this, combined with the struggles associated with a new business, made it a tough few months.
So, instead, I got a job at Ilfracombe junior school and ended up staying there for eight years.
Once my children were a bit older, I decided I wanted to continue pursuing my dream of working in the medical profession, so decided to reapply for nursing. However, by now my Access course was over five years old and it was no longer accepted as part of the entry requirements. It was around this time that I also applied for several jobs at NDDH, but to no avail.
However, I didn’t give up and, eventually, got a job at a residential home in Ilfracombe. As my background was in education, though, I felt like I wanted to learn more about the care industry to help me get the most out of my new job, so I decided to look on the Petroc website to see what qualifications I could get to boost my confidence and enhance my career.
I spotted the Health and Social Care degree and came in for a chat. Straight away, I knew this was what I wanted to do. The staff all seemed so encouraging and supportive, and explained how I would be able to fit studying into my busy schedule.
Alongside my job, I also care for my elderly mum and manage all the wages and accounts for the business, as well as helping out during busy periods. This means, to get my studying done, I have to be quite selfish sometimes (which is very out of character for me)! I take full advantage of the facilities here at the University Centre, and even come in during the holidays and on the days when we don’t have lectures. It’s immensely time-consuming, but also so enjoyable and rewarding, which makes it all worthwhile.
Everyone in my group is so supportive. We have study days at each others’ houses; it’s so nice to just be in the same room as someone who’s going through the same stresses as you, even if you both have your head in a book all day and don’t utter a word to each other!
Many of us hadn’t done any studying for years – myself included – so we all helped each other and drew on each other’s strengths and skills, depending on the assignment and what was required.
My tutor, Shaun, has also been amazing. He’s taken a real, genuine interest in my ambitions and always goes above and beyond to make sure I’m on the right track. And, the Learning Resources team have also been our saviours; always there to offer advice and guidance and help out with referencing etc.
I have recently completed two work placements – one on Willow Ward at Bideford hospital, the other on Tarka Ward in Barnstaple. This has further cemented my desire to become a nurse, especially as I received so much positive feedback from the staff I worked alongside.
My next step, once I finish my foundation degree, will be to complete my nursing degree. And, in fact, I have just opened my application to do a nursing degree at Plymouth. It’ll be tough, as it’ll mean commuting. However, I already know one other person from North Devon who is going to do it, so hopefully we can share lifts.
I know it’ll all be worth it in the end and now I just can’t wait to find a job here in North Devon and start putting everything I’ve learnt into practice.
Lola is currently studying for a Foundation Degree at our University Centre in North Devon
Foundation Degree in Early Childhood Studies
North Devon - Full Time
"I left school 12 years ago, at the age of 15, and went straight into work to start building my career; I didn’t fancy the A Level route.
After having my children I decided to return to education. I wanted to study something I already knew about, so enrolled on the Early Childhood Studies degree programme. I didn’t think I’d be able to go straight in at degree level but at the interview I talked about my previous experience and was offered a place based on that.
The first year was a shock to the system and at times I thought ‘is this worth it?’. However, I persevered and this year I feel much more organised; I’ve sorted childcare and studied Developing Graduate Skills (DGS) in Year 1, which has really helped me when it comes to planning and structuring assignments.
I have balanced my degree alongside running my own cake business, which has been a struggle at times. I also have a five week old baby and the college has been fantastic when it comes to supporting me and ensuring everything is in place for me to return to studying so soon.
I realise I’ve taken on a lot but I’ve become very good at time management. And I never watch telly! I’m very focussed this year and know what I need to get out of the course. I could have taken longer off after having my baby but knew that the quicker I returned to college the quicker I can get my degree and more forward with my career.
I couldn’t recommend the degree programmes at Petroc more highly. I wouldn’t have ever considered going away to university but through Petroc I’ve had the opportunity to gain a degree and move one step closer to fulfilling my dream of becoming a teacher."
To find out more about Higher Education at Petroc visit www.petroc.ac.uk/he
Max returned to Petroc as a mature student and is currently studying on the Foundation Degree in Illustration at our University Centre.
I had my children when I was young. I had finished my A Levels and was about to start a degree when I had my daughter – life took over! I’d always wanted to carry on, but actually didn’t return to education until my daughter turned 20.
I was worried about returning to college as a mature student, but it’s actually been fine. There are about six mature students in my class and we all support and feed off each other.
My ultimate goal would be to keep my part time job as an art technician and also be a jobbing craftsperson, running workshops and getting involved in local exhibitions. My degree will hopefully give me the credibility and expertise to do this.
Studying as part of Plymouth University has been great, as you have access to all their facilities and resources. Being able to access it all remotely works really well for people like me, who are trying to fit studying in around a million other things.
Find out more about our Foundation Degree in Illustration
This course is also offered at our Mid Devon Campus
Zoe is on the Extended Diploma in Animal Management Level 3
“From a young age I’ve always been really interested in animals and as early as I can remember I wanted to be a zoo keeper. I think this stems from my nan, who had loads of animals. Although she died before I was born I remember looking at photos of her with all her animals, and hearing stories about her, and in a way I think this had a big impact on me.
So, when it came to choosing a college course, it was easy.
The facilities here are great. There’s a really wide variety of animals, so you get to do a bit of everything. When I first started the course I thought we’d spend all day looking after animals, but in fact that’s only a small portion of the course. We learn a lot of theory to back up what we do and legislation is a strong aspect of the course; something which is vital to understand if you want to progress in this industry.
Alongside my college course I also volunteer as part of the educational team at Exmoor Zoo. I go to outreach events, at schools and agricultural shows, which give me the chance to put things I’ve learnt on my course into practice.
As part of the course I’ve had the opportunity to take part in several field trips and projects. We recently went to Lundy to study conservation and later in the year I’ll be going to Africa with 13 other students for a two-week safari.
When I complete my course I will be going to Hartpury College in Gloucestershire, to do a degree in Animal Science. I’d like to stay in the education sector, as I enjoy my work at the zoo, so eventually I can see myself working as an educational officer.”
Zeya is on the Foundation Degree in Business
Foundation Degree in Business
"I attended North Devon College in 2000 after completion of my GCSEs and obtained four A Levels. I was unsure what career I wanted to follow, so did not progress to university at that stage. I fell into a career in the financial services industry that I thoroughly enjoyed, and was reasonably successful (I was motor claims manager for a large international insurer in Gloucester). However, following the birth of our son, my husband and I moved back to North Devon and I took the following three years out of work. The economic make of North Devon means that, although I found part time work with a firm of financial advisors, I was unsure how to pursue my career at a similar level as to before.
In order to expand my options I decided to enrol on the full time FdA in Business. I was a little dubious to start with and, based on my experience 15 years ago, I was worried there would be little or no interaction with the world outside of the institution.
However, during my time as an FdA student at Petroc I have been overwhelmed with the support I have received from staff and the feel of genuine interest and enthusiasm for our learning experience, as well as for our individual aspirations.
The opportunity to engage with local businesses and social enterprises, along with lecturers drawing on their own activities outside of lecturing (such as MA programmes and professional confections etc), has been great and aided to the richness of the offering.
The facilities at the new University Centre are excellent and always improving and the opportunity to top up to a full honours degree through the BA in Professional Development is really exciting. The FdA and BA opportunity offered by Petroc has been the difference between me obtaining a degree and feeling that I have a chance to succeed again and not, for which I’m really grateful."
Sarah Holloway is a student on the Foundation Degree in Human Biosciences
Foundation Degree in Human Biosciences
After relocating to Devon from Dudley with my partner, I wanted to enrol on something at the local college.
I started off looking at cake decorating courses, but couldn’t find the right one, so started browsing other courses and stumbled across the Foundation Degree in Human Biosciences. A bit different to cake decorating!
However, the more I looked into it the more I thought this could be for me. I tried lots of different A Levels while at college the first time around, apart from any of the sciences. So I thought ‘why not, let’s give this a go.’
When I was in Dudley I completed an Access to HE course, so I had already had the opportunity to gradually ease myself back into education. And, to be honest, now my daughter (who is five) is at school, I’ve found it easy to balance studying with home life. I just have to be organised, and make sure I get my work done whilst she’s at school.
Doing the Foundation Degree here in North Devon has been perfect me, as it means I’ve been able to gain a university level qualification without moving away or having to commute. And, because the class sizes are much smaller in comparison to university, I feel like I’ve also had plenty of support and one-to-one tuition.
I’m still undecided about what I want to do when I graduate. The degree has opened up many opportunities for me, and at the moment I’m considering several options.
I like the idea of becoming a teacher, either in a secondary school or a college, so may continue my studies further onto a teacher training programme once I’ve finished my final year.
Or, I might see if I can get a job in a laboratory after I finish my foundation degree or I might even do a PhD!
To anyone thinking about returning to education, or embarking on a new career path, I’d say ‘Just do it – you might surprise yourself!.’
Tia studied the Foundation Degree in Sport; Coaching, Health and Fitness.
Tia studied the Foundation Degree in Sport.
"I’ve always loved sport and have played tennis from a young age, training at Tarka Tennis and competing for the county when I was growing up.
It was a natural choice for me to do the sport diploma at college, and I liked the fact it was coursework based and there were no exams. The diploma helped me look at tennis in a different way, studying the history and psychological side of the sport.
I work part time as a coach at Tarka Tennis, which I love, so wanted to take my study to the next level without moving away from the area. The foundation degree seemed like the perfect choice.
The foundation degree has enabled me to develop my skills further, looking into anatomy and physiology. We’ve also had the opportunity to coach a wide variety on sports in local schools, which I’ve absolutely loved, and I’ve been able to complete coaching qualifications alongside my degree.
Two years ago, when I was deciding whether or not to go away to university, I had no idea what career path I wanted to follow. Now I know that I want to pursue a career in sports coaching.
I’m very fond of Barnstaple and would like to work in the area in the future. However, I’d like to spend some time working at a variety of sports centres to gain experience and I’d also like to go to Plymouth University for my final year."
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