College in your 40s…go for it!

Caroline Greer from the Marketing Team interviewed and then spent a morning in class with Angela Leishman a HNC Administration and IT student to find out what it’s like to return to college as a mature student in her 40’s and what were her concerns, fears and highlights.

Angela has also gained work experience through a work placement with the Marketing team at our Kilmarnock campus.  This is Angela’s story…

Angela Leishman

Angela had just passed her Graded Unit and was in class for a brand new module in Social Media

What made you choose this point in your life to come to college?

It just seemed the perfect time as I had to give up work because of the breakdown of my marriage and I was a lone parent with 3 children. My youngest was ready to start nursery and I felt it was time that I did something again for myself. At that stage I could have got a job, but I decided I didn’t want just a job I wanted a career. Because I’m in my 40’s I had to think now about what I want to do with the rest of my life. So I was thinking about the long term and what I could do with the rest of my working life.

What worries did you have about returning to education?

Oh loads. My main concern was my children and the impact it would have on them as they were always used to having Mum there all the time. I was concerned about childcare issue because I was a lone parent.

Why did you choose this course?

I had admin experience and had done administration before when I worked with Developing North Ayrshire. That’s when the internet was taking off. I actually used to train basic use of the internet at the time. How to use search engines how to send emails.

Angela Leishman2

How long was it from the last time you worked until coming in to education?

The last time I worked in admin was 15 years ago but from the last time I worked was 6 years.

So this course is a good stepping stone?

Yes, definately. I had tested the water applying for some jobs and wasn’t even getting a response from employers and I thought “I don’t blame them” because I don’t have any recent work experience. A lot of application forms are wanting to know your work experience for the last 5 years and because I had been a stay at home mum for 6 years, I had no relevant experience to put down. I tried tailoring my CV to all the responsibilities and experience I had as a stay at home mum, but I knew employers would just put my application to the bottom of the pile.

What have you enjoyed the most about your whole learning experience?

First off meeting new people, and the people I have met will be friends for a considerable time, but more importantly is the opportunities that returning to College has given me.  For example, I was given the opportunity to do a work placement with the Marketing and Events team in the Kilmarnock campus. This has been fantastic. It’s made me feel that I am worthwhile that I’m contributing something to the College process. I get up on a Monday morning and I dress smartly and I go to Kilmarnock. I feel as though I’m valued. I’ve had good feedback from members of the team and it’s boosted my confidence as well.

What has been challenging?

Trying to balance studying and home life. I’ve got 2 teenagers and a 6 year old.  My teenager is sitting her Highers just now so she’s in a learning environment as well, and my son’s in second year, so I’m trying to support them with their learning as well. My youngest is still reading the Biff, Chip and Kipper books and having to do her words and sentences. They have out of school clubs and activities so my life is busy, so fitting study and course work in as well is hectic but I haven’t missed a deadline yet! In fact, I have finished my course early!

What support have you accessed and how has this helped?

The support from the Business and Computing lecturers has been fantastic.  They are willing to give up their own time if need be. I’ve had to access the discretionary fund to allow me to return to do my HNC. I didn’t qualify to get my tuition fees paid because I receive childcare benefit so I had to pay them myself. The student funding team gave me great advice and all the necessary information I needed to access this fund.

What advice would you give to other adults thinking about returning to education?

Quite simply…do it, just go for it. I hadn’t heard of the Start Here Go Anywhere campaign promoted by Ayrshire College before I started. I agree with this 100% because you can start here and I feel as though now I could go in so many different directions as I’ve got so many options open to me now. Whereas, before I came to college I was a stay at home mum thinking “what will I do”?

I guess this is a silly question but are you glad you came to college? 

Definitely, it’s changed my life. Being a mum is one of the most rewarding jobs but this is time for me and I feel that I’m somebody now and I enjoy knowing that I’ve achieved something as well. I get a great sense of worth and hopefully that translates in a positive way to my children. They are doing well in school so I think it’s quite good being in education at the same time. They’re seeing what I’m achieving so they are motivated by the success I have had.

What are you going to do next? Any plans for the future?

I have just found out that I have been accepted on a summer Digital Marketing Internship Programme, with Ayrshire College. This is a paid position and it will give me eight weeks of fantastic work experience where I will be learning about the role of a digital marketer. I am over the moon to be selected for this job, and I am looking forward to learning on the job. The experience will help me on my HND course next year, and look great on my CV. I believe there will be a demand for people with digital marketing skills – so here’s hoping it will give me the edge over other job applicants.

After that, ideally a job in an administration background. I would like to remain within the College if a vacancy became available as I love the learning environment and every member of staff I’ve come across since I’ve been here. It also seems to be a positive place to work. I think it would be rewarding work because you will be making someone else’s life better, like the way my life has been improved.


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