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Age: 31

Why Access?

I left school at 16 to do a football scholarship at Newton Rigg College. I was a goalkeeper, and I broke my arm, so I had to re-think what I wanted to do. I started working in the leisure industry, working within gyms.

I was interested in becoming a Paramedic, but I didn’t have the right qualifications, so I came to a college open evening to find out what I needed to do.

I thought I would have had to do A-Levels. I hadn’t heard about Access. When the tutors told me about the course, it put me at ease; I was buzzing when I left!

It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

What’s the course been like?

The course has been great. I’ve got a lot from it. The support from the teaching staff has been great – they are always approachable and always on the other end of an email. They treat you like adults, so you don’t feel like you’re back at school.

All the assignments have been relevant to what I’m going onto do, giving me the stepping stone for the next step.

We all get on with each other – in our group, we have a couple of potential paramedics, a physio, midwives, mental health nurses – a few aged between 18-20s, a few in their 20s, a few in their 30-40s, and two ladies in their 50s – a really good range. There is a good atmosphere as everyone is focused & we are here for a reason. We help each other out – for example, we have a What’s App group – if you’re struggling with an assignment, you can ask the group for their advice.

When I was at school, I didn’t apply myself as much as I could have done, so I was worried about the assignments here and whether I could do it - the whole environment has helped, I’ve enjoyed being back in education, and I’ve felt focused.

I live with my wife and two boys, I work part-time at North Lakes Hotels and come to college on Mondays and Tuesdays. You also need about 12 hours a week study time.

What next?

I’ve been offered & accepted a place at the University of Cumbria, at the Ambleside campus for a 2-year Paramedic Diploma. I will spend half the time at university and half on placement in an ambulance itself, or on a ward, or in a hospice – you have placements in different settings to gain a wider understanding of what it all involves. They look to arrange your placements within 75 minutes travel time, so I’ll likely be in Carlisle or Kendal. It’s five days a week, so I’ve applied for student finance for a maintenance loan. It’s a short term loss for a long term gain. After two years, if you pass the course, you are guaranteed an interview with the North West Ambulance Service.

Advice to others?

Come along & have a chat with the Access course staff. I used to think it was too late or I wouldn’t be able to do it, but it’s a great stepping stone to what you want to do. I would have 100% regretted not doing it. I’m so happy I made that decision.

There is support from the government – it’s great that you don’t have to pay the course back if you go onto further study.