Si­mon swaps front line for new chap­ter

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Student Life -

AFORMER sol­dier from West Lan­cashire who spent 26 years in the Bri­tish Army has swapped mil­tary hon­ours for a First Class de­gree from the Uni­ver­sity of Cen­tral Lan­cashire (UCLan).

Si­mon Jones, 46, has grad­u­ated with a BA (Hons) in So­cial Work and has al­ready ac­cepted a po­si­tion with Lan­cashire County Coun­cil’s Chil­dren’s So­cial Care team in Chor­ley.

A long mil­i­tary ca­reer as a WO1 (GSM) in The Ri­fles saw him tour the world, but as he ap­proached the end of his ser­vice the dad of two from Skelmers­dale be­gan to con­sider a ca­reer in so­cial work.

He ex­plains: “Work­ing in the in­fantry you come across peo­ple from all walks of life and I met peo­ple who had come from bro­ken homes and dif­fi­cult back­grounds.

“I wanted to help peo­ple like that, and I was in­spired by my mother in law who is also a so­cial worker.”

Si­mon’s jour­ney wasn’t straight­for­ward and he was re­jected from 13 uni­ver­si­ties be­cause, al­though he held a range of man­age­ment qual­i­fi­ca­tions, he had left school be­fore sit­ting his ex­ams.

“It was frus­trat­ing,” Si­mon ad­mits. “I’d started to ap­ply to uni­ver­si­ties be­fore I was dis­charged from the army but I was wor­ried I’d have no ca­reer to go to, and I’m some­one who has worked con­sis­tently since I was 16.

“Thank­fully, UCLan of­fered me the op­por­tu­nity to com­plete a Foun­da­tion De­gree in Sci­ence at Run­shaw Col­lege and then progress to So­cial Work.

“I still needed to get my GCSEs, so in my first year I was at­tend­ing night school as well as study­ing for my de­gree and be­ing a dad.

“It was tough at first, es­pe­cially as I had to learn how to study, which was a whole new con­cept for me.

“I was older than most peo­ple on my course and one of only a few men, but my course tu­tors were fan­tas­tic and there was lots of sup­port avail­able for me.

“The fa­cil­i­ties are bril­liant too, and the Uni­ver­sity just gen­er­ally has a great feel to it.”

As part of his de­gree Si­mon took up a statu­tory work place­ment in a child pro­tec­tion role, and that ex­pe­ri­ence led to his se­cur­ing a full-time po­si­tion.

And while he is proud of his years in the mil­i­tary, Si­mon says he is ex­cited about the next chap­ter in his life.

“I had a suc­cess­ful ca­reer play­ing sol­diers but even­tu­ally you have to come back to re­al­ity,” he says.

“The kids are ex­cited that dad’s com­ing home for a change, and it’s nice to be able to be a fam­ily unit again.

“Grad­u­at­ing feels like such an achieve­ment and my fam­ily are all very proud.

“I’m so grateful to UCLan for giv­ing me the op­por­tu­nity for this ca­reer change.”

Si­mon is one of more than 4,000 stu­dents who grad­u­ated in front of fam­ily and friends at Pre­ston’s Guild Hall.

Si­mon Jones has grad­u­ated with a first class de­gree at the age of 46

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