Student Stories

At the Swale Skills Centre we’re passionate about training the professionals of tomorrow. We want all of our students to have the best experience possible, whether they’re out and about working or in the classroom learning. Thanks to our diverse range of courses, we get to meet and train a wide variety of students from all walks of life. Some come to us with the hopes of moving into work straight away, whilst others are looking for more practical ways to further their education.

Here, we speak to some of our current and past students about their experiences at the Swale Skills Centre and find out where their new qualifications are taking them.

Hear from our Hairdressing students…

Lacie Couzens
“I have been at the Swale Skill Centre since September 2015, studying Level 1 Hair and Beauty.

In hairdressing I like to put a set of rollers in and in Beauty I like to do manicures on clients and also eyelash and eyebrow tinting. I particularly enjoy the practical lessons.

I have made friends from being at the Swale Skills Centre and feel that I am supported by all the staff within my learning and pastoral care. I understand the majority of the work given to me but sometimes I have to ask further questions and feel I can approach all staff easily.

I do feel challenged with my learning as all lessons are different in both subjects and I learn new things each time. We have a beauty and a hair salon to enable us to learn the skills we need in these areas.”

Abbie Pepler
“I have been going to the Swale Skill Centre for 4 months now studying Hairdressing NVQ Level 2 and have learnt so many different ways to style hair.

In hairdressing I have learnt to do a wet set, use heated rollers and blow-dry.  These 3 techniques have different ways of applying the rollers or using a different brush to blow-dry.

I enjoy learning new ways of styling hair and I have even shampooed and blow-dried a client’s hair as well as colour.

In this new college, I have met so many new friends to work with around the salon.  I would advise any Year 11 to join Swale Skills Centre as they are looking for hairdressers.

All of the teachers are so lovely and really easy to get along with.”

Engineering students have their say…

Steve, 20, Wind Turbine Maintenance Apprentice
“I was at the Skills Centre right from the beginning. I was in year 10 when they opened and had just started my time in engineering. They were two great years where I learned all about welding, CAD and many other subjects. They even took us on a renewable energy camp in the summer.

On completing year eleven I knew I wanted to continue in engineering, so I applied for a Level 3 BTEC and started my course in September 2010. That was a great year, where I continued to build on my engineering knowledge.

Near the end of the year I was encouraged, by some of the staff, to apply for an exciting new opportunity as an apprentice wind turbine technician for the London Array: the biggest offshore wind farm in the world. I was put through an extensive selection process, which involved two days of observed group work, engineering knowledge, hand fitting skills and a final interview. It was intense.

I was so happy to be told at the end of the process that I would be receiving a place on the apprenticeship programme and that I would be starting in September 2011. I then started a new course, delivered by the Swale Skills Centre that was all about wind turbine maintenance.

I spent the next eighteen months at the Skills Centre learning all about the theory of wind turbine maintenance and operations. In addition to this, we had to go to several different training establishments throughout the country to be trained in different survival techniques, such as sea survival and how to evacuate the top of a wind turbine.

The Swale Skills Centre has had a massive influence on my life and they have helped me every step of the way.”

Caleb Kayembe, Year 13 Student
“Where can I even begin? I ended up at the Swale Skills Centre after applying for a BTEC Level 3 Engineering course at the Sittingbourne Community College. Due to the fact that the centre is purpose built specifically for engineering studies, this encourages students to stay focused and actually think like everyday engineers.

The Swale Skills Centre also has a relaxing atmosphere when it comes to break and lunchtime. The seats are comfy and there is even a library shelf of books related to engineering.

The teachers are extremely supportive and really get involved when it comes to our progress and development. The majority of the staff who teach in the centre have the kind of patience every student needs. If you do not understand exactly what you are required to do, the teachers will breakdown the topic until you get back on track.

Even the staff on the first floor of the building who work on the computers are so friendly and caring; you could never feel like you are lonely and have no one to talk to. Due to the canteen being close to where they work, they pass by from time to time and ask how you are getting on.

Being a post 16 student in the Swale Skills Centre has enabled me to reach levels, stages and heights in my educational life that I have not realised before. There have been times when I have fallen behind but the teachers in the centre have given up their time in order for me to bounce back and complete work. When I needed the support while I was applying for a petroleum engineering course at university, I certainly got it. Having applied for 5 universities, I received 4 conditional offers back, which definitely boosted my confidence.

I have been continuously inspired by a poster on the first floor of the centre, saying ‘training the engineers of tomorrow, today’ – this is the ultimate vision of the centre.”

Damilola Shodiya
Damilola started his training at the Swale Skills Centre in September 2008. He was in year 10 at the time and was an outgoing and friendly student. Being away from a school environment and ensconced in the more ‘industrial’ surroundings of the Skills Centre, Dami found his niche and really began to knuckle down in his studies.

His course was a BTEC First Certificate in Engineering, which involved the study of welding, CAD and a variety of other subjects. He continued the course in to year eleven and finally gained a double pass grade.

Having caught the engineering bug, Dami decided to continue his studies in to year 12 and 13 by enrolling on a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering. He tackled his studies with the same vigour and enthusiasm as he had shown in years ten and eleven but the content of this course was much more challenging and he found himself struggling.

Instead of giving up and settling for a pass grade, Dami spent many of his own free hours at the Swale Skills Centre, making sure he had a good understanding of the course content and preparing for his assignments. This resulted in him performing much better than expected and his grades in the subject improved over the next few months.

Early on in the second year of his course, Dami gave some serious consideration to studying for a degree in engineering. He pursued this path and by the end of year thirteen he had gained the required grades to meet the conditional offer he had received from South Bank University.

Damilola started his university course in September 2012 and is still pursuing his studies. He occasionally drops in to the centre to catch up with the staff and to update us on his burgeoning career.

James Funnell
James, a young man in his early twenties, joined the Swale Skills Centre in September 2010. He had moved from job to job in his teenage years and had not found a career that suited him. However, when he discovered the Swale Skills Centre he immediately enquired about a course in engineering. He was offered a place on our level 2 City and Guilds Diploma and chose the mechanical pathway, which involved learning how to use milling machines, lathes and the mechanical principles that are the cornerstone of engineering.

It quickly became apparent to the staff who taught him, that James was a very able young man with a talent for engineering. His maturity and strong work ethic were an example to the rest of his class and had an impact on their individual performances. James completed his course with the highest grades and asked to move on the BTEC level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering. He committed to two more years of study so that he could continue to build his engineering knowledge and increase his chances of gaining employment at the end of the two years.

James showed the same tenacity and worked even harder on the BTEC. He regularly produced top quality work and one again achieved the highest grades in the qualification. In September 2013, James was successful in gaining employment.

Rebecca Pryer
Rebecca started at the Swale Skills Centre in 2008. She had already been studying engineering at the Sittingbourne Community College for a year and joined us here when the unit opened. She completed year eleven with high grades and was able to secure an apprenticeship placement with a local manufacturing company.

Becky came back to the Swale Skills Centre to complete her BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Engineering as part of her apprenticeship programme. In the two years that Becky spent with us she learnt a variety of different skills; gaining knowledge in several diverse areas of engineering, including mechanical systems and electrical principles.

Part of her role in the apprenticeship was to do some small fabrication and welding jobs. So, upon request from her company, we provided Becky with a short welding course to give her the basic skills and knowledge required to set up and operate MIG welding machines.