Neil worked as a mechanic for a long time, but after taking up a new hobby in woodwork, realised he would like to pursue that as a new career.
“It all started when I made a simple marble machine on my work bench at home. I really enjoyed the process and started looking at more resources online, like maker’s channels on YouTube and that’s where I saw Matt Estlea. He works at Rycotewood and has his own YouTube channel where he gives tutorials and builds products.”
After learning that Rycotewood is the leading school in the country for furniture Neil decided to join an evening class there to see if her could progress his skills and learn more about woodwork.
Neil was hooked! During the evening classes he got speaking to the tutor about the City & Guilds course. He decided he’d like to pursue his new hobby as a potential career and signed up to start the course in September. He says “The tutors were really helpful and guided me through the whole thing, explaining the application process and also the potential careers the qualification could lead to.”
Now studying Level 2 Woodworking, Neil notes there is a great balance of independence and support on the course:
“We’re each assigned our own workbench at the beginning and that helps us to settle and gives us some ownership over our work.
“On a typical day, you’ll get into the workshop at 9:00 AM and have a quick chat with your tutor if needed, sometimes a group chat about common problems of working methods, then we are free to crack on with our own projects.”
Time isn't just spent in the workshops though, and Neil has a lot of class work where he learns about the industry and potential careers. “They really open your eyes to all the potential directions you can take when you graduate. We also do lessons on timber technology, technical drawings, even down to writing CVs and discussing the future of furniture production and what might be possible in a few years.
“It really is a wealth of information and you can really see why previous graduates have gone onto win awards and get sought after apprenticeships.”
Neil gets on well with his classmates and has enjoyed working with and supporting the people on his course. He would like to get into the teaching side of things, which he’s found really rewarding.
"There's such a diverse range of people in my class and you can see that some people have had a great time at school before, whereas others have not enjoyed school at all and have really struggled. At Rycotewood though they seem just take everyone as they are, you know? Everyone's different and has different needs, different goals, so they just deal with it and don't expect everyone to act the same.”
Neil commutes from Basingstoke each day that he’s on campus: “[it’s] a long way as I need to take the park and ride in, but that’s the level of commitment that Rycotewood has inspired in me. I really want to be here as the atmosphere is always one of support and kindness and I really feel like this qualification can take me where I want to go in life.”