Going to college not only prepares young people for the world of work; it can set them up for life. Alex Henderson and Olivia Dodds have taken two very different career paths but both have discovered the value of studying at Gateshead College.
Digital specialist Alex used his college experience to launch a business venture, while Olivia has now progressed to Northumbria University where she is studying for a degree in child nursing.
The former completed a TV and film production course before establishing NewGen Creative with business partner Justin Edlagan in 2015. The venture has taken off, with the duo winning commissions from a host of high-profile firms including Motel One, Sodexo and Harley-Davidson.
Alex is rightly proud of these achievements – and is quick to acknowledge Gateshead College’s valuable contribution to his development as a talented entrepreneur.
He says: “It’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for Gateshead College. The course gave me the skills and confidence to start the business and I’ve not looked back since.
“Although I already had a background in video production, the college gave me invaluable experience of further editing skills and pre-production workflow and logistics. More importantly, they encouraged me to develop my entrepreneurial spirit, making me president of the Northern Stars enterprise society, taking me to business events and talks and even organising an incubator scheme with Gateshead Council so we could get NewGen off the ground.
“I wouldn’t have achieved all of this at any other college. My teachers were so supportive and took a genuine interest in my new business, which I launched while still at college. Probably the best thing they did was encourage me to surround myself with like-minded people who are running successful businesses. Through the enterprise society I learned more about what it takes to start a business, how to look after the finances and how to network effectively with potential customers.
“I also discovered how other entrepreneurs tackle day-to-day challenges. They say it’s a lonely life being an entrepreneur but it doesn’t have to be, not if you talk to people who’ve been there and done it. Without the college’s help, I wouldn’t have known that these opportunities existed.”
Alex and Justin started their venture by making eye-catching video and social media content for clients but as the business grew, they branched into other exciting areas including 3-D virtual reality walkthroughs of hotels, offices, shops and leisure venues. Now they are starting to win recognition in the business world; last year NewGen was shortlisted for a North East Business Award and voted one of the top three digital and social media firms in Northumberland & Tyneside.
Olivia, too, is set for a successful career although she took a different route to Alex. After leaving school she studied A-Levels at Gateshead College, gaining an impressive A* in English language and literature and an A in psychology. She also completed a TV and film production course, as Alex did, and achieved a distinction* – the highest possible grade.
She says: “I didn’t really like school so I started looking for a place at college. Gateshead College was the only choice for me; I attended a couple of open days and the staff treated me like a proper adult. When I started studying there, the tutors really supported me and took an interest, not just in my academic grades, but also in my personal development. That really helped to build my confidence.
“At school I became anxious about speaking in front of people but within two months at college I was presenting to a room full of students.
The Gateshead College experience helped Olivia, 18, secure a place on the Child Nursing course at Northumbria University and win the chance to embark on her dream career – a move inspired by her own personal trauma.
When she was 13 her father was diagnosed with cancer. Olivia helped care for him for two years before, sadly, the cancer returned and he passed away three years ago.
She says: “Caring for my dad gave me the desire to work in the profession. I got some experience working as a volunteer in a local hospice – in palliative care, mainly – and I helped out at after-school clubs to give me more experience of dealing with children. I’ve also started working towards a qualification to become a dance teacher so I can help young people stay fit and healthy.
“One of the best pieces of advice from my college tutors was to get some work experience. It definitely helped me get a place at university and will look great on my CV when it comes to getting a job.”
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