When Dave Coley left school at 15 with no qualifications or much of a sense of direction, he never thought in later life that he would become a lecturer, complete a master’s degree and plan on studying a PhD.
Falling in and out of jobs, living week by week, Dave was certainly a hard worker, prioritising making a living but in his own words, not really getting anywhere with few prospects on the horizon.
At the age of 39, physically demanding jobs were taking a toll and it was at this stage that he knew he needed to make a change. “I always thought I was capable of doing more,” Dave said. “But with no qualifications, I guess I could not really expect much more.”
It was at this point that Dave made the change and enrolled on Coleg Sir Gâr’s access to higher education course, which provides a step to and preparation for university study.
Dave, who opted for the humanities pathway of the course, said: “Whilst the thought of attending university was quite a daunting one, it turned out that my time at the college had prepared me well for what was to come.”
The access course provided Dave with the confidence and skills to apply for and study a joint honours degree in history and medieval studies in Swansea. “History had always been my passion,” said Dave. “But the need to work and earn had always taken precedence up to this point in my life.”
Whilst at university, Dave also completed his maths and English GCSEs in an evening class at Coleg Sir Gâr.
Dave’s hard work paid off and he graduated with a 2:1 honours degree. “Graduation day was up there in the top three events of my life,” he said. “To be able to celebrate completing a degree was something I never thought I would have the opportunity to do.”
This experience had such a profound affect on his life that following a move from Wales back to the West Midlands, he is now teaching others on an access to higher education course. “It had been my ambition to offer the same opportunities to others that Coleg Sir Gâr had offered me,” he said. “The benefits of entering the profession of teaching are many, but the sense of fulfilment I have gained from taking that step towards change cannot be measured.”
Dave has since completed a master’s degree at University of Wolverhampton, a PGCE at Birmingham City University and is planning to study a PhD.
He added: “The support and excellence of teaching that Coleg Sir Gâr provided was the catalyst for change, the opportunities that completing an access course can provide are only limited by one’s own determination.”