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Paul (Access to HE: Engineering and Physical Sciences)

Paul dreams of working in the space industry, but his first step in his journey was coming to Reading College to study an Access to HE: Engineering Level 3 Diploma 

"It’s been a long time since I’ve been in education and all of my qualifications were null and void. I wanted to change career and go into Engineering and so the best route for me was to study an Access course.  

“I worked in insurance for 16 years and I decided that that wasn’t going to help anyone, and I loved solving problems and science and maths. I’m a problem-solver generally, so I decided people who solve problems for a living are called Engineers.” 

Paul decided to leave Liverpool and move away from his wife, who he’d only married a few months before, to study at Reading College.  

“One of my best friends lives a 15-minute walk from Reading College and I was searching because I lived in Liverpool at the time, I was searching for Access courses with a specific Engineering component and the course at Reading was the best course that I could find. 

“The staff had a very straight-forward approach and wanted to help which made a difference.

“I was impressed by the quality of the facilities and the quality of the teachers has been challenging.” 

It was not all smooth sailing though. 

“Initially studying the course was terrifying because I’d been out of education for so long, we had an assessment test on Maths in the first month and I did terribly on that test which was a bit of a wake-up call. 

“I thought, oh no I’ve made the wrong decision, I’m going to be a terrible student and the pace of that never really let up because we had so much to cover in such a short time but my Maths tutor and the way she structured everything was brilliant. At the end of the module, we’d have a week or so to revise and we’d be covering as many past papers as we could get hold of, the way that she did it was brilliant. And my Physics teacher, the pace of teaching and the depth of her knowledge was invaluable.  

“Doing an Access course sets you up for university because we learnt about study skills and how to write assignments at an academic level. 

“For many people having to write an assignment might have taken them out of their comfort zone but there’s going to be a lot of that at university and people who are studying sciences and maths  will be under the impression that they didn’t have to do that kind of thing so this might have been a wake-up call.  

“Doing an Access course has been very useful. It’s like a jump-start to get me back into just that mind-set of learning and reminding me how exhausting it can be.” 

Paul juggled his studying with working part-time. 

“I worked in a pub, it was the easiest type of work that I could fit around college, assignments and studying.  

“Initially, it was quite hard. I worked, I slept, I came to college and that was it. For the first two or three months, I was constantly learning something new and revising because I was convinced that I was going to repeat that failure from the first maths exam and that kept me on my toes. 

“Later on, it was easier as I got more into my stride.” 

Paul couldn’t recommend an Access course more to others. 

“I think you get out of education what you put into it, if you are prepared to learn and put in the hours and work over problems that you initially find difficult. There are subjects that we covered that I didn’t understand at first, so I spent five hours at home reading over the notes and going over the exercises and making sure the next day I could come in with at least a partial understanding of what I was doing. I think that determination is going to see me through university.  

"I preferred studying an Access course to A Levels because it was two years of studying and exams and I had to remember things from two years previously, whereas with the Access course it was modular, you cover what you need to and then it’s done.  

In the future, Paul dreams of going to the moon and back. 

“I’m currently studying Mechatronic Engineering at The University of Sheffield, which is basically robotics. It’s a three years degree for an undergrad but I’m going to try to transfer to the masters.  

“Ideally, I want to go into the burgeoning space industry and build components for satellites and space stations. My hope is to end up working for a space agency or at least a company that supports it.”  

“I’m more resilient purely from having been through that process of constant assessment and constant learning.”