Higher education student and father of three, Andy Barkes, started studying for a Foundation Degree in Mechanical Engineering in September 2019. As a full-time employee of Babcock International based at Devonport Royal Dockyard, Andy is one of many City College students who fits studying around their work and family.
While Andy acknowledges it takes a lot of effort and a great deal of juggling different responsibilities, he said he has already noticed the huge benefits his course is having on his career as a through-life support engineer.
The 31-year-old said he had initially felt some uncertainty about returning to education. Having been diagnosed with both dyslexia and ADHD, Andy admitted he was concerned that his learning difficulties would mean he struggled with the course. However, the former Royal Navy weapons engineer has achieved consistently high marks and was awarded 100% on his most recent assignment. Andy is also a member of Babcock Neurodiversity Network which supports its employees with dyslexia, dyspraxia and other related conditions.
Andy said: “I was concerned about being able to cope with the course, especially doing it alongside a full-time job; in fact, it put me off applying for a couple of years but I was really encouraged and supported by Babcock. After meeting with the HE Learning Support Officer at the College, I felt hugely reassured that help would be there if I needed it.
“It didn’t take long after starting my course to realise that the high level of support on offer isn’t just for those with learning difficulties, but for all students. The lecturers always make time for us. Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, they have been on-hand throughout: if you need help, they will make the time to go through something with you either one-to-one or with a small group.”
Part of Andy’s reason for choosing City College, he said, is its excellent reputation for supporting mature students and the flexibility of the course that make studying alongside work possible. He said: “I felt that the College had a lot of experience in supporting students who have to balance their studies alongside the jobs and other responsibilities, such as being a parent. Having such a mixture of people at all different stages of their lives – yet all of whom have the same aspirations and interests – makes for really interesting lectures. Everything is up for discussion in our lectures and I love the thought-provoking and engaging conversations that occur as a result.”
Andy has fully embraced his studies and said he said this first year has inspired him to progress to the top-up year once he completes the Foundation Degree.
Andy added: “I would be lying if I said it was easy; but you get out of this course what you put in. I have enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and I am thoroughly looking forward to being a part of City College for the next four years. If you are a bit hesitant like I was, don’t be. Go for it: you will not regret it.”