What comes next? The stepping stones to success for Swansea students

Updated 09/08/2017

Students across Swansea will now be looking forward to a well-deserved summer break after overcoming their biggest educational challenge yet: their GCSE exams. While many are set for pastures new, there are those who are still deciding on where to take the next steps of their educational journeys. 

For students in Swansea, there are plentiful opportunities for further study.  Mark Jones, Principal of Gower College Swansea, offers his thoughts on the next stepping stones towards success.

It’s been all-systems-go for students across Wales over the last few months. For many, the GCSE examinations proved extremely challenging and students have devoted immense periods of time to revision and preparation. For all, the summer break has been eagerly anticipated and is well deserved. 

The summer also brings valuable space and time to think properly about the next steps in life. Plenty of students will not have decided where they want to be in September, and that is absolutely fine. There are a variety of opportunities to choose from and, depending on results, students could be looking to move on to study A Levels, vocational courses, or even entering the workplace directly.

Of course, the choice can be difficult. Remaining at the school you have attended for much of your teens can seem the easiest and most comfortable option, especially if the sixth form offers courses that you find particularly appealing. However, in many cases the comfortable option is not always the wisest choice – particularly if your interests lie in areas such as sports science, technical theatre, construction or IT. 

Some colleges offer specialised courses in these areas that are not usually available at school sixth forms. At Gower College Swansea for instance, you could start a full time course in Sport (Development, Coaching and Fitness) or Sport and Exercise Science.  Our courses in Technical Theatre could set the wheels in motion for a career in stage management, lighting and sound. At Gower College Swansea, you could lay the foundations for a prosperous future in construction work, by enrolling on one of our wide ranging new qualifications in Brickwork, Carpentry or Painting and Decorating. 
Another potential avenue to consider is the ever-growing digital sector, which is going from strength to strength in Wales in terms of jobs growth and career potential. Whether you’re interested in software production or passionate about computer programming, an IT qualification can help to establish a career in one of Wales’ fastest growing sectors.

If you’re still in the midst of decision making, it might be worth considering what sort of career you might like to have, perhaps even specifying a sector or industry. No one is expecting you to know exactly what you want to do for a living, but by now you may have a good idea of what you find interesting in an educational or professional sense. The first weeks of summer are a great time to start researching subjects and courses related to these interests, and where the best places to pursue those courses might be. 

You may have a clear picture of where you’d like your career to start. In this case, it would be a good idea to look into the specific qualifications or experience that might be a minimum requirement to work in that industry. If you were to apply for an engineering course at university, for example, you’d need A Level qualifications in subjects like maths, physics and possibly further maths, or an appropriate vocational course such as the BTEC Engineering Diploma. 

If you’re unsure as to what your career interests are (and it’s absolutely fine to be), you may choose to pursue a broad range of A Level choices in higher education. Most institutions will categorise their subject options into groups and, if you haven’t already applied for A Level study, it would be worth considering which subjects you most enjoy and where your strengths lie.  By choosing subjects that reflect your academic strengths, you are more likely to achieve highly, enhancing your university prospects. A Levels are more demanding than GCSEs so it’s important to choose subjects you enjoy to help keep you motivated and engaged in the face of coursework deadlines and exams.

The atmosphere of a sixth form or college is completely different to what you may have gotten used to at school. 

Colleges are more akin to universities in the fact that students are all of similar ages and at similar stages in their education. For many Welsh colleges, including Gower College Swansea, the facilities are on par with what you would get at universities. If you’re on a vocational course, you’ll also likely be working with students who will be progressing into work at the same time as you.  When studying A Levels, you’ll have support from your peers during the university application process and will be able to share advice and insights gained from open days or independent research.

Whatever happens, it’s important to remember that these are just the next stepping stones on a long, upwards journey to success. The next few years will not dictate how you spend the rest of your life, but they could have real influence on how it starts. I urge you to enjoy your summer holiday – it will be a long-deserved break – but also to take the time to research, enquire, and explore the best options for you.  

PR: Working Word