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A million pieces to a million pounds

4 years ago, I left my second high school with no qualifications, a lack of direction and no ambition. Fast track 4 years later to May 2018, I’m now the Founding Investor and Director of Weeduu.co and YourCode Recruitment Group. The last few years have been interesting for me, and now understanding the various routes within education and how some students in the mainstream system can be neglected, I realise how lucky I was to not get caught up in the net.

In September 2014 I decided that I needed to pursue a different route within education and scoured the market for alternative options to a 9-3 secondary school which really wasn’t working for me. After a couple of weeks of submitting application forms for educational institutes across the country, I found out about the ‘Apprenticeship Academy 14+’ at Leeds City College, an alternative vocational learning environment for students who would usually be in Years 10 and 11.

It provides young people with a supportive environment to gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in today’s workplace, with the teachers and general staff working with the students to ensure they are equipped with the skills and experiences valued by employers. They also ensured that they had experts in the various subjects that students attend which was extremely beneficial – especially from a business perspective! I remember thinking that I had learnt more in the first 3 months there than in 3 years of being in high school business classes simply because the business teacher at the Academy previously ran a trades company. It was eye opening for me to understand the magnitude of opportunities that I would be able to apply for post my exams – a complete turnaround on the HGV Apprenticeships that I had been told to aim for by my previous careers officer. The Academy gave me a lifeline as it was my last chance to find my feet in education and make something of myself. I was very much excited for what the future would hold.

For me, the academy felt like a grown-up place to learn where we were treated like adults and knew our tutors by first name. Classroom sizes at the academy enhance 1-2-1 tutor time with each student in comparison to mainstream classrooms. The environment was so much better for me, it enabled and prepared me to grow up and be ready for the future work environment that I would be part of.

I took and passed all of my Functional Skills, GCSEs and BTECs at the Academy whereas 12 months prior I was on track to fail over 80% of my exams. The big turnaround for me was simply the flexibility to adapt what we were learning to suit our interests. In business I came up with an actual business plan and did everything from contacting suppliers, getting quotes, all the way to pitching the idea. This helped to keep me and the other students really engaged throughout the year. I enjoyed business the most, it’s crazy to think that before I went to the Academy I had never seen a completed business plan. Everything was so practical, there is only so much that you can learn from a textbook and unfortunately, especially in business, it’s not that easy.

Leeds City College spent time to get to know the students’ aspirations (and in my case, open up my aspirations to greater levels) to ensure that they could give me the tools that I needed to achieve and succeed.

I knew back then that I wanted my own business. I saw so many limitations in working as part of a rigid system and I wanted to do it my way and differently. I’m now working with other organisations and businesses across the UK and Dubai to help increase change within these companies and improve the efficiency of educational operations. My biggest client, a globally recognised technology business who have just moved to London, have asked me to build their post 16 – 21 strategies to help ensure that they’re catering for the needs of their new hires. It’s fantastic to know that my work is being recognised by some of the biggest players in the market and also the fact they’re observing the limitations within education whilst backing a 19 year old to help change this. It’s something I’m extremely proud of and the chance to share my story and inspire young people is an amazing feeling.

Look at what’s in your city. There’s only a gap if people don’t know something so do your research, look out for skill shortages in your industry, speak to your careers adviser, your tutors, family and find your niche.