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BLC alumni ‘riding high’ after winning graduate programme at the Department for Transport

After leaving school at 16 and working in a range of jobs for eight years, Darren Spencer from Buxton thought he’d left it too late to fulfill his career ambitions. But following a one-year access course at Buxton & Leek College in 2013, he won a place at the University of Surrey and is now set for a high-profile career in the Civil Service.

In the future Darren’s role will likely include briefing ministers, including the Secretary of State for Transport and support Ministers during debates in the House of Commons.

Buxton born Darren, now aged 28, said:

“After working in roles that didn’t really interest me, I decided four years ago that I actually did want to go to university and study a subject that I was interested in, for better future job prospects.”

“The one-year access course at Buxton & Leek College is the equivalent to A Levels, so it was perfect.”

“As it is an Access Course to higher education there is an understanding, especially by the lecturers, that your previous education may be limited. I left school when I was 16, so I had not been in education for eight years. There were others in the cohort who had not been in education for a lot longer. But the course material was very accessible and the lecturers taught in a way that made it enjoyable for everyone.”

Following his Access Course at College, Darren was offered a place at University of Surrey, in Guildford to study International Tourism Management. During his time there he spent five months in Hong Kong on student exchange and graduated this summer with a first-class degree with honours – he was also awarded the ‘Signet Award’ as the best final year student on his course.

“I am now on the Commercial Development Programme at the Department for Transport (DfT) in central London.” Said Darren.

“It involves three one-year placements throughout the Department. I am currently working on HS2 and next year I could be involved in rail franchising, aviation, major contract management, and commercial policy development, among others.

“In the future I will be expected to brief ministers, including the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, and support ministers during debates in the House of Commons.

“I will be applying for a commercial role within the DfT, in which ever area I find most interesting after my three years. It will be a challenging role wherever I end up in the department but I can look forward to gaining brilliant commercial experience alongside the opportunity for continuous learning and further promotions.

“I’m so pleased I made the decision to do an Access Course, it sounds clichéd but Buxton & Leek College really has made my dreams come true. I actually wrote to the College recently to thank my tutor Ciaran Fallon – he made me realise that I could apply myself academically which pushed me to go to University and made everything else possible since then.”

For more information of the Access Course at Buxton & Leek College visit the website or call 0800 074 0099