FE me

Name: Charlene Newby

Born: 1982

Job: Administrative assistant

Attended: Sandwell College, West Midlands, 1998, 2000 and 2005

Studied: Art and design, retail NVQ and business administration

After three different periods at Sandwell College as a student, Charlene decided she liked the place so much that she has taken a job there.

During a chequered period in which she switched subjects, unexpectedly became pregnant, had a baby and went to work in retail, she decided she had to give her studies a "proper go". Last summer she qualified in business administration and was offered a position on the college staff.

She has been working in the Workplus department as administration assistant since December 2005.

I suppose I am in a unique position. I was a student at Sandwell and now I work here in the Workplus department. That means I know all the tricks the students and lecturers can get up to and what's behind it all.

Although when I first came here as a 16-year-old it wasn't the right thing for me, I have grown to love the place and want to spend many years here.

When I did my art and design course I was very young and I came from school in Birmingham and didn't have any friends here. It all seemed very strange and tough.

To be honest, my mind just wasn't right - I didn't really get into my studies. That was why, when I came back twice more to study, I had a different approach.

I was even able to say to the 16-year-olds in my classes when I was in my twenties that it wasn't all about having a laugh with your friends and seeing what you could get away with. In fact, it's all about learning and setting yourself up for life, finding a direction and a base to build on.

After I'd finished my retail course, I worked in a ladies' underwear shop and a sports store, and the stuff I was taught at Sandwell helped me to become a store manager.

Then I had a baby boy in 2003 and, as a single mum, I had to re-focus. I came back to Sandwell to do an NVQ in business administration last year and I haven't looked back.

Karen Simpson, my lecturer, and apprentice assessment officer Gurb Bisla were fantastic. Everyone in my class passed their exams and I am sure it was a great deal to do with the way the lecturers went about their work with us.They put in a lot of effort to ensure we were fully revised and ready for the exams.

It wasn't the best start for me here eight years ago, but now I love it. I help other students by helping to prepare tests before they take apprentice courses, and I oversee a lot of the paperwork involved. I am already telling people to give me more work as I find it really enjoyable.

The dinner ladies in the canteen are lovely, the teaching staff great and the management friendly. It's a nice place to study and work in.

Mim Hall, my manager, says I have a lot of potential and that I could go far in this college. I hope so. But because I have a little child, I can only work here 16 hours a week, but I hope that increases as the years roll on.

Charlene Newby was talking to Shekhar Bhatia

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