It’s a far cry from his previous life, serving with the British army on the front line in Afghanistan.
But Ben Thompson is now targeting a university degree, and a fresh career working with disadvantaged communities, after thriving on an Access To Higher Education course at Telford College.
Ben, 32, from Hollinswood, has already received an unconditional offer from Staffordshire University to study children’s nursing after achieving distinction grades in every assignment he has submitted.
He is described by Telford College tutors as an ‘absolute asset’ to the course, and ‘a pleasure to teach’.
“The most important decision of my professional and academic life”
But Ben admitted he had some concerns before he arrived. He said: “Enrolling on the Access to Higher Education course at Telford College was probably the most important decision of my professional and academic life to date.
“Having left secondary education 17 years ago, I was very apprehensive. But it has reignited my love for scholarship, learning new skills and re-learning long forgotten ones – like how to write structured essays, analysing and evaluating topics.
“My self-confidence has also been boosted, and this is reflected in my professional life as well, as I gained more knowledge.”
He added: “I expected the course to be only about preparing for studying at university. Instead it has been so much more. I have learnt a lot about the world around me, seeing it in a different light.
“I have especially enjoyed learning sociology, as I found that to be very mind-opening. I try to apply the knowledge I have gained to my personal and professional life.
“This has informed my plans for a post-university career, as I have decided to work in economically disadvantaged communities in the future.”
Ben has been combining his Telford College studies with a job with Direct Health, working as a carer for children and young people with physical and learning disabilities.
“The most difficult challenge so far on the course has been combining full time employment – often over 80 hours a week – with the course,” he said.
“But with excellent support from the tutors, I have been able to achieve excellent grades.
“Although I have already obtained an unconditional offer at my first-choice university, I intend to push forward to achieve 100% distinction to reward the belief the university has in me.”
Ben was nominated for the West Midlands Access to Higher Education Learner Awards in recognition of his outstanding achievements at Telford College.
Caroline Bastow, Access and HE learner manager at Telford College, said: “Ben is highly academic and able across all subjects. He has excellent written and spoken English, as well as being a skilled mathematician, and is on track to achieve 100% distinction grades.
“He is an extremely effective independent learner who reads extensively, and this is evidenced in his insightful assignments. Indeed, tutors have commented on how Ben’s assignment are a pleasure to mark.
“Ben also has a wealth of knowledge working within health and social care; there is no doubt that he is a kind and compassionate person with so much to offer.”
She added: “Having previously served in the army on the front line in Afghanistan as a platoon signaller, it’s no surprise that he is a great team player, always willing to assist others.
“Ben has been an absolute asset to the course, and a pleasure to teach – not just because of his excellent achievement and quality of work, but also because of his modest and helpful nature.
“Ben deserves huge praise and recognition for his excellent outstanding achievement in so many areas.”