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Balancing work, study and family life as an HN student

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 11:01
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My name is Chris Hardisty, I’m 30 years old and have been working towards my Higher Nationals for two years part time at my local college University College of Mann (UCM). Prior to the course, I had worked as a bricklayer on-site and gained 13 years general construction experience, which gave me a good basis for stepping forward and broadening my knowledge of the wider construction industry.

I became a father in December 2015 when my son was born, which was a proud moment. This made me consider my future, with little thought I approached a local apprenticeship representative and asked, ‘how do I go about studying for my National Diploma and onto HNC?’ It was September of 2016 I enrolled on the 2-year part time National Diploma course in order to work towards my HNC.

Good things come to those who...

With a trade background sitting and studying was a welcome change for the body. One (9am-8pm) long day at college was a much-needed physical break, as I remained ‘on the tools’ for the most part of the course. In the first year I picked up various skills from basic ICT formatting and letter writing in word documents, to drawing longitudinal sections using AutoCAD software from surveys we did of the car park. 

I took the course not knowing which direction to take given the variety of careers within the construction sector, I knew that whichever direction I took it would be better for my family’s future. Towards the end of my first year Bridé and I were expecting our second child! 

A job opportunity came up in local Architectural practice, I had to apply for it! I knew it would aid me with the remainder of my courses and would put me amongst experienced people with good resources.

And I got the Job!

New skills, new environment

I began my first office job of my life in June 2017 aged 28 it was daunting but felt fresh, just what I needed after years of graft in all conditions. Putting clean clothes on to go to work, using a proper toilet. I felt like I had made it in life. It was a steep learning curve that summer understanding the planning regulations and application process, folding drawings etc. Everything was new and fresh just like my clothes at the end of what would turn out to be a hard day believe it or not. 

I never thought that just using your mind could be so tiring, anyway back to college for year 2 and get my teeth into some assignments applying my newly discovered knowledge, it was great to see classmates again to find out how they had progressed and whether they had placements too.

I knuckled down for what was one of the hardest periods of my life so far studying learning a new job and fathering a nearly 2-year-old and a new-born baby. I’m not going to lie I missed a fraction of my work due to exhaustion and found myself asking the lecturer of MTE to allow and extension of time on my assignment, which was granted. The rest of the year was a success and towards the end I received a special recognition to attend the awards evening pleased is an understatement.

HNC in Construction/Civil Engineering

The next step to again progress my knowledge and acquire new skills this is an academic course focusing on the advanced and complex nature of construction. The industry is ever changing and in order to be the best you can be the National Diploma and HNC courses are a great introduction to get a sound knowledge base and understanding of the fundamental skills required to be successful. 

I would recommend taking a similar path to myself and gaining some on-site experience prior to embarking on the course as you get a greater understanding of the realities which can be overlooked through textbooks. HNC or HND will open lots of doors in the industry whether it be in:

  • Building 
  • Repair and Maintenance
  • Civil Engineering
  • Materials manufacture
  • Construction Management
  • Building Management
  • Ecology
  • Geotechnical 
  • Planning Consultant
  • Building Control Officer 
  • Surveyor  
  • Structural Engineer
  • Building Services Engineer

The list goes on...

These courses are not easy, and you may have to take a step back in life i.e. wages but ultimately you strengthen your position.


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