Higher education graduate in a cap and gown

A recent Shrewsbury Colleges Group graduate tells us about his experience studying for a Higher National Certificate (HNC) while in full-time employment.

Among the many higher education qualifications on offer, HNCs are one of the best options for anyone who’d like to enhance their knowledge of a subject or industry to an advanced level while also working a full-time job.

The part-time version of the courses, studied over two years through afternoon and evening classes, are ideal for completing alongside other commitments: whether that’s working full time, childcare, or something else. In fact, many students have their HNCs funded by their employers since they provide a way of getting you the qualifications you need to advance in your industry with minimal disruption to your day job.

More than just being highly convenient, HNCs give you the professional skillset you need to progress along your current career path or to enter a new industry with a strong footing. They are Level 4 qualifications (a step up from A Levels and BTECs) and are focused on teaching you specialist practical knowledge that can be transferred directly into the workplace.

HNCs are available here at Shrewsbury Colleges Group in everything from Business to Engineering. To give you an insight into what it’s like to study while working, we spoke to one of our alumni who has recently graduated with his HNC in Construction.


Jim Francis, an HNC in Construction & the Built Environment graduate from Shrewsbury Colleges Group

Since leaving school, Jim has always worked within the construction and design industry. He first started at Shrewsbury Colleges Group in 2009 on a Level 1 Carpentry course, before continuing onto study Level 2 Carpentry whilst being employed on-site as a carpentry apprentice. Following this, he spent the next few years working in construction trade retail and design consultancy.

But Jim really got the chance to take another leap forward in his career in 2018, when he started working for Fletcher Homes as an Architectural Technician, preparing detailed working drawings ahead of the construction of homes.

Fletcher Homes were keen for Jim to continue his education in construction to deepen his specialist knowledge of the industry, so they encouraged him to enrol onto SCG’s HNC in Construction & the Built Environment.

Jim said: “The HNC was the perfect course for me to further my knowledge within construction. The course covers all types of construction forms and includes work on a range of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) packages, such as 3D software, which I use on a daily basis. The wider scope of learning including health and safety management has helped me in my role dealing with construction sites on a frequent basis.”

Jim’s course was funded by his employer, who supported him throughout his studies. “Balancing work and studying is never easy, personal sacrifices were made, but they are all worth it to gain this universally-known qualification in the industry,” he explained. “The staff at Shrewsbury Colleges Group were brilliant, particularly Dave Perry and Stuart Raine, who assisted me throughout the challenges of learning through the pandemic, ensuring that I did not struggle or miss out on any learning.”

The other students on Jim’s course had a vast range of roles in the construction industry, which allowed them to approach their assignments using the strength of their combined knowledge (and make friends for life in the process).

Jim has now finished his HNC, graduating with his award in September 2021. Reflecting on his experience, he felt that: “The HNC qualification has helped me in furthering my career and has given me new opportunities. Completing my studies at the college has shown me how much I can achieve, as has the support from Fletcher Homes, who showed massive faith in me by funding the course and allowing me to grow in my life and employment.”

Find out more about this nationally recognised qualification aimed at training construction professionals, as well as our other Higher Education courses.

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