Through designing games and learning computer code, Steven Belfield has rediscovered his love of learning and the path to a rewarding career.
The 38-year-old from Pontefract says the Access to Higher Education (HE) course in Computing at Bradford College has given him a second chance at realising his academic potential as well as studying towards an enjoyable role in IT.
Retraining for a new career
Although he was academically talented at school, Steven didn’t go to college and instead, after leaving school, went into employment. He said: “I had a couple of jobs which didn’t have long-term career prospects and I wasn’t particularly enjoying them.
“Why didn’t I do something, where I could wake up in the morning and think “I’m going to work!” not oh dear, I’m going to work.”
So he began to look into ways of studying, with the aim of gaining a degree. He found the Access to Higher Education courses at Bradford College. He explained: “I had always fancied computing and having a go at programming. It’s one of the things I like and have an active interest in. “
“I wanted to prove to myself I could do this”
Steven already had a good knowledge of applications such as Microsoft, having used them since the mid 1990s, and had taught himself QL code, a computer programming language, through another job he had held.
He said: “Part of the reason for starting this course was to show that I could do it, but it was partly so I could go to university.”
Steven began studying at Bradford College in September 2019. He said: “We learnt about Microsoft products, how to use them, how the internet works, and work-based programmes you would use every day in the office.
A varied and exciting course
“We also learnt soft skills such as interview skills, on which we received feedback. I’ve been to 100+ interviews and it was useful for me, but it was really helpful for younger people in the class.
“We learnt about binary logic, logic gates, and using maths such as floating point decimals. There were science-based aspects such as coding and how computers ‘talk’ to themselves. It was a really enjoyable course.
“Before we finished the year, we did a short project. I created a text-based computer game, for which I wrote the script.
“Both the tutors were brilliant. They were really helpful and couldn’t do enough for you. If you showed willing and effort to learn, there was nothing they couldn’t do. I’m a bit geeky, and loved hearing about things I didn’t know before. This expansion of knowledge was amazing.”
Opening up new horizons
Having broadened his horizons, Steven now plans to study computing at university before eventually working in the IT sector full-time. He said: “I want to write more programmes and games. There was one lesson where I learnt how to make a programme for a vending machine. It was really interesting.
“I liked being on campus as well. I liked going to the Jo Cox café on the fourth floor of the David Hockney building and talking to classmates about what we’ve been doing. It was a really relaxed atmosphere.
“Most people are there because they want to learn. These are people who might have missed a year in education but want to be there. The gift of learning, for me, was brilliant.”
If you are also considering taking on one of the college’s Access to HE courses, Steven advises you to “just do it.
“I would just tell people to keep an open mind and enjoy it! The time you put in leads to what you get out of it.”
The one year Level 3 Access to Higher Education Diploma in Computing is designed for students over the age of 19 wishing to progress to computing-based Higher Education. You will develop practical skills in Computing and undertake a research project to demonstrate application of these skills. This pathway may allow you to progress to degrees such as Software Engineering, Computer Science, Computing, Web Technologies, and Digital Media.
If you’re aged 19 or over and you are thinking about Further Education or training you may be eligible for an Advanced Learner Loan.
The Advanced Learner Loan is a government-funded loan to help learners. It’s easy to apply for, doesn’t take your household income into account and doesn’t involve a credit check. Steven advises: “Make sure you find out what you’re entitled to and apply early.”