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Mature students are engineering their 'dream careers' thanks to University

24 November 2016




Joining university later in life failed to put the brakes on the engineering dreams of two Wrexham Glyndwr University students.

Ian Marsden, 32, and 44 year-old Shelley Skerritt say entering higher education as mature students has given them even more focus as they pursue their “dream career”.

Securing a job on graduating is their number one goal, and both cited the University’s 92.1% employability rate – the best in North Wales – as a major reason for enrolling at the institution.

Wrexham Glyndwr is renowned for its widening access routes and support of people from non-traditional backgrounds; given its size and age the eight year-old University is more agile and can offer the personal touch, which also led to it being named number one in Wales and fifth in the UK in the Social Mobility Index.

The fact both Ian and Shelley were able to take on a foundation year before progressing on to a full-time qualification was another selling point; both are now in the second years of degrees in Performance Car Technology and Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering respectively.

Shelley, from Wrexham, was an administrator before deciding to follow her dream.

“I had worked at different technology companies and loved the industry, but just felt I had more to offer,” she said.

“Here at Wrexham Glyndwr not only can I learn more about engineering and pursue the career I’ve dreamed of, I get hands-on experience.

“Where else could I be tinkering with an aeroplane one minute and then part of the pit crew of a motor racing team the next? It’s unbelievable really, which is why we love it here – you’re made to feel welcome and like you belong, whatever your age.”

Ian, from Northwich, has worked in factories for the last decade and finally chose to take the plunge and “go for it” by joining the Performance Car Technology foundation year and progressing on to the full degree last year.

“Had it not been for the foundation option I would not have been able to do this, so I was very fortunate,” said Ian.

“I had been out of education for 15 years and working in factories so I thought my education was over, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Both Shelley and I looked to Wrexham Glyndwr, not just because it has a reputation for supporting mature students and those from less traditional routes in higher education, but because we want the best chance of a career at the end of this.

“The courses are tailored towards that, it’s not just a degree for the sake of it but the modules are designed with external companies to have you job-ready on graduating, and that’s a big selling point for a mature student… for any student.”

Shelley added: “It takes a while to get back into learning but I think the life experience and self-discipline we’ve gained from working for so many years before starting a degree stood us in good stead, especially for engineering.

“Starting university at any age can be intimidating but you’re not a number here, you’re a person and they know your name, they care about how you’re doing. That’s a great balance and certainly appealed to us.”

Both Ian and Shelley were part of the Team Twp/Glyndwr Racing crew that took part in the Mission Motorsport Race of Remembrance at the weekend.

Being part of the pit crew working on the team’s Mazda MK1 MX-5 and said it was a feeling they’ll never forget.

“There were 18 of us on the team and the majority are students,” said Ian.

“It was a real-life experience, a proper hands-on event and something you can’t learn in the classroom – we’re very lucky to be involved, though it was very hard work!”

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Maria Hinfelaar, says the University’s strong reputation for employability is attractive to students of all ages and backgrounds.

“Here at Wrexham Glyndwr there is a huge commitment to that ethos and a tremendous sense of pride amongst staff and students,” she said.

“It is, of course, vital that we are there for them while they are here with us in north east Wales, but also that we are there as they make their way in the world – student support is something we do exceptionally well and I’m very proud of that.”