A former Telford College student has been awarded an MBE for services to British foreign policy – describing it as a ‘big shock, an honour and a privilege’.
James Rogers has been at the Foreign Office since 2016, working primarily on issues around the UK’s relationship with Europe.
He says his time at Telford College set him up for the career and friends he has today – as well as equipping him with skills he has regularly used as part of his day-to-day job role.
“It was a big shock to receive an MBE and it is a great honour and privilege,” he said. “These awards aren’t a reflection of one person, they really are a team effort despite their appearances.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have great teachers and friends that have both inspired and challenged me. You never forget the lessons you learn in your formative years.”
Telford-born James was raised in St Georges and attended school in Wrockwardine Wood. “My parents still live there so I’m never a stranger and still call the place home – I’m very much a Shropshire lad at heart,” he said.
“I studied A Level English language, law, and history as well as AS Level media studies at Telford College. I didn’t know precisely what I wanted to do as a profession at the time so followed the skills which I enjoyed and were adaptable.
“I had a great time at Telford College, and can honestly say it set me up for the career and friends I have today.”
He added: “History provided the skills to try and understand the ‘why’, law provided the skills to interrogate and question, and English language and media studies provided the skills to articulate my arguments in an imaginative way.
“These are all skills that I have relied on throughout my career. Telford College not only nurtured those skills, but provided more independence than conventional sixth forms which helped me stand on my own two feet as I prepared to enter the world of work – and life skills are often undervalued when you’re young but pay dividends later.”
James said his career with the civil service involved understanding complex problems, and working out how the Government could respond.
“No matter how much you think you know about a subject, you will never know enough – this world is just too big, too complex, and ever-changing. You need to be honest enough to accept that but turn that uncertainty into a virtue – I suspect that’s true for most professions.
“You can only make progress by challenging your assumptions and prejudices, over and over again – and that’s what Telford College taught me to do.
“In history we debated the forces that shaped the 20th century and analysed them repeatedly from umpteen perspectives. We never settled on an agreed viewpoint but that wasn’t the point.
“The point was to keep questioning and I’ve been doing it ever since…and about the very same topics too. They have been directly relevant to many areas of my career, particularly the modules on Irish history and origins of the First World War.”
After leaving Telford College in 2007 James studied criminology and sociology at university, which he says was inspired by his A Level law course.
“I got the research bug and took criminological research for a Masters degree. By then I had worked out that I wanted to work in the public sector and headed towards the civil service.
“After an introduction to the civil service in the Government Digital Service, I joined the Ministry of Justice’s Strategy Unit which literally sent me to court and prison. But my history A Level came calling and a career in international affairs beckoned.”
“I joined the Foreign Office back in 2016 and have worked primarily on the UK’s relationships in Europe, including with the EU.
“There were times when the relations were particularly difficult but it’s important in those moments to take a step back and see the bigger picture, which is where the A Level history modules really helped.”
Telford College principal and chief executive Graham Guest said: “The college sends huge congratulations to James for this richly deserved recognition.
“It’s always fantastic to hear about the progress our former students make after leaving us – setting people on the road to a rewarding and successful career is precisely why we love what we do.”