“I came here a rogue and I am leaving a gentleman.”
Edward Mowles (Eddie) was 56 and had been unemployed for 16 years when he enrolled with West Highland College UHI in 2018.
After attending a weekly job club at the Leven Centre in Kinlochleven Eddie then enrolled on a maritime and aquaculture course with the aim of improving his life and his chances of employment.
He was nominated for the award of Further Education Student of the Year by Shaun Escott, the maritime and aquaculture skills course leader at West Highland College UHI’s Mallaig centre.
“Before this course, Eddie felt he was going nowhere. He’d found himself in a lifestyle that he didn’t like anymore. However, what started as off as small steps developed into a goal. Eddie would talk about an ‘ideal’ job and it was always something outdoors, so the team discussed college courses with him. After a few unsuccessful job applications, he decided the maritime and aquaculture skills course in Mallaig was for him.
“This was a huge step for Eddie, having no relevant experience or qualifications. We worked with the employability team to get Eddie back into a classroom. He was very nervous about using a computer and terrified of being with more able students in a classroom environment. When he came to us, his confidence and motivation were at their lowest ebb.
“However, Eddie found the course gave him new purpose and direction. He never looked back and never missed a class. His attitude began to change and he began to take better care of himself. Even more impressively, he adapted to the classroom environment and, when presented with challenges he found difficult, he rose to them.
“He found he had skills the rest of the class didn’t and thrived in helping younger students. His work ethic, attendance, good communication and involvement of others, inspired them.
“At his final review, Eddie only had one thing to say, “I came here a rogue and I am leaving a gentleman.” We are all very proud of Eddie, he demonstrated tremendous determination and used his college experience to turn his life around completely.
“He is testament that our courses can be life changing. No matter what age you are or what your previous experience has been – all you need to do is give it a go and we’ll be with you every step of the way.”
Eddie successfully completed the maritime and aquaculture skills course earlier this year and gained work experience in the aquaculture industry with a short employment contract.
He has decided to continue his studies at the Mallaig learning centre, having enrolled on an NC shipping and operations course. As the West Highland College UHI and the University of the Highlands and Islands Further Education Student of the Year, he will receive £300 and a certificate.
Speaking about his awards, Eddie said:
“I am chuffed to bits. I have to say thank you to Shaun – without him I would never have got these awards. When I came to Mallaig a year ago, I was a mess and wasn’t sure where I was going.
” I was very nervous and not sure what I was doing. From day one, the Mallaig staff sorted me out. I had never used a computer and was in a class of teenagers. I then met Shaun and the rest is history. Thanks to Shaun I now have the confidence to do things I never thought I could do. Mallaig is a special place.”
Professor Crichton Lang, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands (Interim) added:
“I am delighted that Eddie has been recognised with our Further Education Student of the Year title. He has shown great determination and is a fantastic example of education’s transformational effect.
“Our university partnership of colleges and research institutions aims to provide seamless pathways and remove barriers to help students find their own learner journey and our supportive, local teams ensure this is a welcoming place to study if you have been out of education for some time.”