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After completing her foundation degree Debbie went on to the University of Plymouth, where she obtained a First.
Foundation Degree in Human Biosciences
North Devon Campus
I studied the Foundation Degree in Human Biosciences, obtaining a Distinction and then went on to the University of Plymouth to complete the third year and obtain a BSc in Human Biosciences, in which my final overall grade was a First.
I chose to study at Petroc because for me three years travelling to Plymouth would not have been possible. I have two children, both of which were at school at the time, I also worked part-time at NDDH as a clinical support worker, so Petroc allowed me to be able to travel, study, work and support my family without too much upheaval. To be honest if I had had to do all three years at Plymouth I honestly don't think I would have completed the course, let alone obtain a first.
At Petroc I learnt most of the laboratory skills that I would require for the third year of my degree, these included microscopy, Gram staining, polymerase chain reaction and using gel electrophoresis. These skills allowed me to confidently undertake my research in the lab at university, which was microbiology based and involved identifying isolates and finding antibiotic resistance genes.
Highlights at Petroc include the friends that I made whilst there, a small cohort meant that the lecturer to student ratio allowed plenty of time for questions and support and one in particular was inserting a gene in to E. coli and making it glow in the dark!!
I am currently not in a graduate post but my next step is to try and get a post at NDDH as a trainee biomedical scientist in the microbiology department. It would require me completing a few more modules to become IBMS approved and then state registered but that is my goal.
Razale is using the skills learnt on this course to forge a career in the local music industry.
FdA Music Performance
What made you enrol on a degree at Petroc?
I had always wanted to study music and also return to education. I never gained any qualifications from mainstream education as I was just not academic in conventional subjects. Also embarking on a degree course as a mature student was very daunting. However, I was determined to grasp this opportunity. Having a college within close proximity that offers all the incredible facilities made this possible. I did not want to travel or relocate. I was also attracted to the smaller scale community feel.
What were your highlights from your time with us?
Having enrolled as a vocalist it soon became apparent that it would greatly benefit me to learn an instrument. So being pushed into learning the guitar after many years of neglect opened up a whole new journey in terms of song-writing and composing. Whilst this is rudimentary level I have sought professional tuition to propel me into reaching the stage where I can accompany myself as a performer. Also organising my three day tour and the charity event were incredible experiences, offering insight into how live performance works. Undergoing these projects has made me realise it is not out of reach and very feasible to be out performing. Two years ago I could only dream of this. Song composition has also been an incredible journey, as I was longing to write my own material but had no concept of how to approach this.
On a personal level, the welcoming environment from both the tutors and contemporaries put my mind at ease about entering the classroom for the first time after nearly thirty years.
There have been many tears and moments when I felt like giving up but if you demonstrate you are putting the work in you receive full support and encouragement.
Filming my very first music video was also a real highlight whilst opening the door to social media with a professional image.
What skills did you learn on the course?
Song composition that can be adapted to various environments such as solo artists to full band to live and studio performing; Music theory; Performance; Rehearsing with a full band; Events management; Developing profile as a singer song writer; Web design - to a degree; Basic recording skills that I can develop with practice outside of college; Project management - a real asset as I could partly transfer my background in running two businesses whilst also developing this to combine events with my jewellery business and music profile; Studio work - again this has enabled me to see how accessible it is to record as an independent artist.
All in all I thought as a mature woman my days of recording, performing and releasing music were long gone. This course has taught me how to promote myself as an independent artist and that there is no requirement for a record deal. Moreover, this seems to be the way forward. It has opened so many doors and opportunities for me.
How has the degree helped progress your career?
This is early days as I have only just left the college. However, I am writing songs and plan to record and release an EP. I am working on obtaining gigs in the local area with the view to branching further out in the South West. I am also working on launching my online profile with recorded singles and social media campaigns.
Plans to record music will also help my jewellery business as I am going to use my original music as soundtracks for micro films promoting my jewellery range. This will take some time to plan.
What are your long-term plans, career-wise?
I would like to look at getting into music publishing. I aim to be featured on local radio and BBC Introducing and I am planning on hosting live events.
I am aware that the ship has long sailed for me to be playing at Wembley Stadium but that does not mean I cannot make a name for myself locally. Hard work, dedication and gaining a professional reputation will put me in good stead.
Karl is using the Foundation Degree to fulfill his dream of becoming a teacher
Foundation Degree Sport; Coaching, Health and Fitness.
Former school: Great Torrington
Karl is on the Foundation Degree in Sport; Coaching, Health and Fitness at Petroc’s North Devon Campus and also volunteers with Bideford Robins disability football.
During the summer, Karl will earn his Level 1 FA coaching badges – funded by Bideford AFC – working with a FA coach. He coaches disabled children up to the age of 12 at Bideford AFC. Karl secured this opportunity through work experience as part of his degree.
Karl has also volunteered at the Devon Ability Games, as part of his course.
Karl said: “Watching children with a disability enjoying socialising and playing football just makes me smile. It’s not about ability but about enjoyment for them.
“Becoming a teacher has been a goal since I was at school. I spent five years out of education and worked as a Dairy Engineer for nine years. I worked over 300 hours in three months with a three-year-old boy. I left the job after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety but this degree has offered me much needed change and a new challenge.”
When he completes his foundation degree, Karl hopes to go to University Centre Somerset to train to become a teacher.
Carmen studied at our North Devon Campus and has since set up her own business and has just turned over her first million!
Foundation Degree in Illustration
Founder and owner of The Prop Factory
What was your highlight during your time at college?
I think the moment when something 'clicked' and I understood the creative process. Sometimes at college when I did a lot of research and experimenting I didn't fully understand why it was so important. I guess when your projects are for hypothetical briefs it is very open to interpretation. During a project on children's illustration I really questioned my style of work, and why I was frustrated at my work. I didn't like what I was producing, but found it very hard to change. I wanted my style to be free and random, but no matter how hard I tried it always came back down to realism. It's like my mind just wouldn't let me draw 'freely'. For quite some time I tried different techniques and mediums, but they all looked forced. Then I discovered the embroidery machine. I am not 100% sure why I chose to draw with it, but I quickly developed the free style of illustration I had been craving. It was through perseverance and questioning myself that I discovered a new way to work. I loved all the illustrations I produced using this technique. I even tracked down the exact same machine I was using at college - it was hard and expensive, so I could continue at home and after my degree.
What are you doing now?
After my two years at Petroc I converted to graphic design at SCAT. Towards the end of my third year I developed an interest in social media and more particularly marketing. I became obsessed with marketing and decided to start my own business. I was selling cake stands at a pannier market at the time, and a couple asked to hire them, so I started a hire business. I designed a logo as a project and by the time I left my third year I went full-time into my business. That was six years ago. From then we have grown and now employ a team of 12 full-time and 6 part-time. Last year we turned over our first million. We are based in Exeter and have a warehouse full of props to hire. We make new things every day, mostly from recycled materials. We have worked with some great household names like Britain's Got Talent, Children in Need, The Guardian, Smirnoff, Stellar McCartney, Glastonbury and the likes. We also make and sell Giant Deckchairs, but as we are selling this side of the business, I'm not so fussed about this. We have sold these all over the world, again to some really good companies including Coca-Cola, British Airways and Instagram.
What skills did you learn to prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Research! I am a huge research advocate. I would rather spend a long amount of time researching ideas and projects than rush into things. Being a creative company I also hugely appreciate the value of trial and error and experimenting. I encourage our staff to play around thinking of ideas and trying products. We make a lot of mock-ups which is a practice I leant at college. Kim Jones, my tutor, used to say ‘just have a play’. Also Chris, my ceramic tutor from when I did a ceramics unit, taught me to 'push' materials as far as you can. I remember these two things every day, and I always have their voices in my head reminding me. It is hugely important in manufacturing to do these things. I also understand as a creative and undertaking projects at college myself how important motivation is when thinking up ideas so I am a very mindful employer and make sure the working environment is the best it can be, from little job perks like free all you can eat fruit for the staff, individual working space and support with outside projects of their own. As well as practical skills, studying also massively built my confidence, as I never felt an idea was wrong. Looking back I really did produce some pants work, but that didn't matter as it was all part of a process to move on to better things. I can whole heartily say without studying I would not be here as an employer, and 18 people would not be employed in creative jobs at The Prop Factory. It makes me super proud to think of this and also how much we give back to good causes, our contribution to the local economy and the 100s of events we help make beautiful and fun.
Make props forever. I never thought I would want to stay in the same job forever - it is almost unheard of these days for someone to stay in a job for a lifetime. That seems to be the old school way, not the job hopping millennials. But I think I have reached where I want to be. I think the company will get bigger for sure. I imagine having an absolutely huge collection of props, weird and wonderful, and I want to spend my life designing and collecting them.
Louise studied FdSc Law from 2014 to 2016 and is now studying BSc Law at Plymouth University.
What did you study at Petroc and when? FdSc Law 2014-2016
What are you doing now? BSc Law at Plymouth University and working part time for Torridge District Council.
How do you feel college prepared you for what you went on to do next? Petroc enabled me the skill of studying, time management, academic writing and referencing, research and employability skills all of which were totally crucial in order for me to progress on to the next stage and complete the BSc in Law at Plymouth University.
What are your highlights from your time at Petroc? Graduating at my ripe age and being a prize winner and receiving a trophy. I did not think I was capable of achieving a degree let alone above 70%. I totally enjoyed my learning experience and journey at Petroc; the foundations for a career in law were most definitely set.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar career path to you? If, like me, a parent and unable to commute to a university for three years to complete a qualifying law degree, then the FdSc will enable the desired journey. It will add an additional year onto studying, but as it is available locally, anyone can access it and therefore make a career in law possible.
What’s the long-term plan? My ideal career would to become a District Judge but to do that further postgraduate studies are required. Due to the costs involved (postgraduate studies are not covered by student finance), I am undecided at this whether postgrad studies are an option, although am considering part time studies so that I can continue to work to pay for my education. Alongside this, I am also considering the possibility of becoming a Paralegal and progressing a legal career as a Legal Executive (and maybe later a District Judge) rather than a solicitor as training is far more accessible at a distance.
Dom is studying Foundation Degree in Computing at our Mid Devon campus.
Name: Dom LaskeyCourse: FdSc ComputingYear: 2Campus: Mid DevonPreviously: Level 3 Information TechnologyPrevious School: Tiverton High School
"I did BTEC Level 3 in IT at Petroc, for two years. I got a distinction overall. Then I was going to go to uni elsewhere, but I changed my mind. So I did a Foundation Degree here as I was told it was a really good course. It’s going really well. I hope to get a first – I’m working towards that. I’m going to Plymouth next year for the third year. It’s a good time to move away from home and experience uni life.
"If you're unsure about the course, I would say do it. If you’re not comfortable with moving away, it’s a great chance. You have the third year in Plymouth, so you get the experience of living the university life."
Andy is studying Foundation Degree in Computing at our Mid Devon campus.
Name: Andy HowardCourse: FdSc ComputingYear: 2Campus: Mid DevonPreviously: Access to HE Diploma in SciencePrevious School: Chulmleigh Community College
"I came here in 2008 and did Uniformed Public Services – then lots of job cuts happened. I worked for about 5 years and then that’s when I decided I want to go and study computing as that’s the kind of thing I like to do. I decided to go on the Access course at Petroc. It helped a lot, especially as I got my A-level Maths.
"The degree class is small so it’s easier to learn. I’m hoping to go to Plymouth for the third year – I’ve got a house with all the guys on the course. I was thinking of going into teaching or web development after. One of the modules is a PGCE, so that would be ideal. I’ll take it as it comes – see what third year’s like!
"If you’re thinking of doing the degree, come and talk to the people on the course. Find out what it’s all about and get an idea of everything. You don’t have to have a lot of knowledge beforehand - you get to do it in the first year."
Nathan is studying Foundation Degree in Computing at our Mid Devon campus.
Name: Nathan WilsonCourse: FdSc ComputingYear: 1Campus: Mid DevonPreviously: Level 2 and Level 3 Information TechnologyPrevious School: Tiverton High School
"I left high school with only four-and-a-half GCSES, so I couldn’t get onto the level 3 course. I was put onto the Level 2 and I also studied GCSE English here. Doing the Level 2, I got a distinction star, so I progressed onto the Level 3. I didn’t have a huge idea of what I wanted to do after school, but I know I enjoyed IT. It was the main thing at school I enjoyed.
"I did not actually know it would take me to a degree. I’m doing quite well. It’s the same as what I have been doing before, but I have got student finance. I’m thinking of staying on to go to Plymouth. I think it’s quite a good balance - it prevents living costs by staying at home.
"You can still achieve great things If you didn’t do well at school."
Joanna studied FdSc Law at Petroc’s University Centre from 2014-2016 and now works as a paralegal at a local law firm.
FdSc Law Previously: Level 3 Extended Diploma in Business
Studying at Petroc’s university centre prepared me for what I wanted to do next. It allowed me to gain a relevant higher education qualification while staying in the area, and at a lower cost.
The highlight of my time at Petroc was graduating with a grade and degree I am proud of.
My advice to anyone wanting to follow to same path as me would to be go out and get work experience. It was the most valuable thing for me, as it added an extra layer to my qualification and showed I could transfer the skills learnt in the lecture hall into the workplace. I found it made the subject matter much more relatable and understandable.
I currently work as a paralegal at a local law firm, and I hope to qualify as a Legal Executive within the next few years. I may look into dual qualifying as a solicitor in the future. The ultimate dream is to be a partner in a firm.”
Jo is working with Applegate on a Degree Apprenticeship in Management and Leadership
Degree Apprenticeship in Management and LeadershipEmployer: ApplegatePreviously: Level 3 Extended Diploma in BusinessFormer school: Great Torrington Community College
I can’t wait to make my 2017 more eventful, by doing exactly what I want to do at the weekend and making great memories with my friends.
It’s all possible after I accepted the fantastic degree apprenticeship opportunity with Applegate. Not only am I saving money while still studying for a Business Management degree, but I am getting fed and watered every morning too, as Applegate puts on breakfast for its employees.
This time last year I had no clue what I wanted to do. I considered travelling and going to university but I really only wanted to experience the lifestyle. I accepted this opportunity at Applegate because it gave me the best of both worlds. I am still at university and I also get six weeks to travel in the summer if I want to.
I may make some dodgy decisions at the weekend but this is one decision I definitely don’t regret. I’ve experience tradeshows and having everything paid for, and I’ve got the ability to save up to £10,000 for a house which the company will match. There are many educational benefits of this Apprenticeship too, but really I enjoy it because I spend my working day with people who are on the same level of banter as me – and I’m in control of the radio!
I’ve received employee of the month, I always get recognised for the work I do and I am supported with my university work by any employee that can be of some help.
I am currently studying my Business Management degree and am an Apprentice at Applegate Marketplace. If you feel like this opportunity could suit you, Applegate are taking on 10 more degree apprentices in September. It’s a five-year commitment, but the benefits are endless.
See you at the festivals!
Course: National Diploma in Music Practice and FdA Music Performance
Rich is the drummer in the band The Fallen State. The band is made up of former Petroc music students and staff, and has seen great success both locally and further afield. Recently they went on tour with 3 Doors Down and Pop Evil, and played to large crowds at venues up and down the country, including Manchester Academy One and Hammersmith Apollo.
How do you think your college course helped prepare you for what you do now?
When I studied the BTEC I learnt a lot about performance and recording, both of which were fairly new to me at that time, having just left school.
But, studying the FdA as a mature student with a bit more experience was paramount to learning more about the modern music industry and how the modern business of music works. It was great to network with other local musicians and technology students, many of whom I (we) have worked with in the local area.
Any stand-out moments from your time at college?
There are lots of standout moments from my experience at Petroc, but I really enjoyed shooting a music video there and learning about the editing process of footage we had recorded!
What have been your musical career highlights to date?
There have been many career highlights so far but touring the country/EU is always a mind-blowing experience. We have been lucky enough over the last couple of years to tour with big bands including Black Stone Cherry and 3 Doors Down! These tours respectively have taken us to famous venues such as the Belfast Ulster Hall, Nottingham Rock City and very recently, the amazing Hammersmith Apollo. I don't think I'll ever forget playing to a full house on that Apollo stage!
Any words of wisdom for those planning to follow in your footsteps?
My advice to anyone wanting to advance in the music industry is keep at it! It's a lot of hard work, broken cymbals, time off work, creative differences, getting home from a show three hours before your shift etc. etc. but stick together and be the best you can be because you never know where it will take you!!
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
“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
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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