Aspiring aerospace engineer flying high at university after studying at CANDI

An aspiring aerospace engineer is proving a real high-flyer at university six years after he was predicted low grades in his GCSE results.

Rojhat Dere, 22, is studying a PhD Mechanical Engineering at UCL, where he is researching future hydrogen fuel technologies, having previously completed an Engineering Level 3 Diploma at City and Islington College (CANDI).

He grew up on a council estate in Hackney and was told in Year 10 that he could expect to mostly receive D and E grades after missing half the year due to ill-health.

It was quite demoralising, but it also motivated me to prove to myself and those around me that I was able to do better,” said Rojhat.

“I had a couple of teachers in my corner who helped me focus on my weaker subjects and I made a plan to get my grades up. That was the turning point.

“There was a lack of ambition where I lived. Not many people went to university or even thought about it. It seemed so out of reach.

“I was fearful of failure and regret if I didn’t do everything I could to get where I wanted to be.”

Rojhat pushed himself in his final year. He started school earlier and finished later, doing mock papers over and over. His hard work resulted in him achieving three As, four Bs and two Cs in his GCSEs.

His passion for engineering began at a young age and fixing his bike and building Lego models. He would regularly watch Top Gear and aviation documentaries on TV and his sister would take him to London City Airport to see the planes on her way to university lectures.

“I would spot planes using flight tracking apps and chart all the makes and models and see what engines they had. The technology intrigued me. I would look at the mechanics within the wing, and how all the components worked seamlessly together to get them up in the air,” he said.

Rojhat enrolled on an Engineering diploma at CANDI after meeting a lecturer with experience in aerospace engineering at his interview. He went on to pass with a triple-starred Distinction.

“The diploma a much different approach to learning. It was much more hands on, which helped me understand things better, rather than just taking A Level Maths and not understanding how it applies to the work you’re doing,” he said.

The practical side of the course involved using industry machinery and equipment in CANDI’s workshops and learning computer-aided design applications, which gave him a head start when he went on to study a MEng Aerospace Engineering at the University of Nottingham.

Rojhat was full of praise for his “inspirational” teachers at CANDI who gave students a realistic expectation of careers in engineering.

He said: “The teaching was great. Most of my lecturers were PhD engineers who knew what was required to study at a higher level and the system inside out, which was real plus in getting us into good Russell Group universities.”

During his course, CANDI arranged for Rojhat to undertake an engineering work placement with McLaren Construction Group at a new development in Hackney.

“I shadowed a civil engineer who let me use their CAD software. We also went onto the construction site to check the steel bars before the concrete was put in, and make sure everything matched the designs,” he said.

“Even though it was civil engineering, it gave me a real insight into what engineering is as whole.”

Rojhat was part of a CANDI engineering team that came first in a competition run by Transport for London (TfL) to make its services more eco-friendly and sustainable. The team was awarded two weeks work experience working in various departments within TFL.

“CANDI is where my dream became achievable. Until I went there, I didn’t think I would get into a specialist engineering university,” said Rojhat.

“I’m now on the way to a career I always hoped for. It means everything.”

Engineering employs 5.5 million people in the UK and offers a broad range of careers in mechanical, electrical, chemical, and civil engineering as well as new green technologies.

Find out more about our Engineering courses and apply here.

Former WestKing student Ben Murphy scoops National Chef of the Year

A chef who trained at Westminster Kingsway College has won the Craft Guild of Chefs’ prestigious National Chef of the Year competition.

Ben Murphy, who is Chef Patron at Launceston Place in Kensington, scooped the top prize at a celebratory dinner at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge attended by VIPs from the hospitality world, including Gordon Ramsay who won the competition in 1992.

April Lily Partridge, who also studied at WestKing and is Sous Chef at The Ledbury in Notting Hill, came third in the competition, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Ben served a menu of butter poached pollock, radish and oscietra followed by Lake District young fallow, watercress, onion and batek pepper, and a dessert of clementine, honey, tahitensis vanilla and yoghurt.

In an interview with the Craft Guild of Chefs at the ceremony, he said: “Winning National Chef of the Year is crazy. Seeing the standard of food today, I didn’t expect to win at all. As I said to my friends and family, I’m going to cook the food I do daily, cook food I love to eat and hope for the best.

“I was confident and in my comfort zone and felt happy with what I did. I felt I did enough, but I wasn’t sure because afterwards we got the chance to view other dishes and I saw the calibre of the chefs I was against and the level of food they were cooking.”

Ben was presented with an exclusively designed winners plate framed together with the winner’s medal from Churchill Catering, along with £500 worth of products.

He also received a cash prize of £2,500 from Knorr Professional to support his career development along with a chef experience from Continental Chef Supplies including Michelin-starred restaurants, masterclasses and artisan food classes.

Each of the finalists have also been given the chance to enjoy culinary dining experiences with well-known Michelin-starred or award-winning restaurants across the UK.

The competition was judged by a panel of professional chefs chaired by Kenny Atkinson, Chef Patron at House of Tides and Solstice in Newcastle.

He said: “Wow, what a final, with an incredible winner! I’ve absolutely loved my first year as Chair of judges and seeing the calibre of cooking we’ve witnessed today has been the highpoint.

“The brief I set, purposely left the menus open to individual interpretation so that we could clearly see each chef’s personality, skill and talent so we’ve tasted some amazing food today. Congratulations to all the finalists and well done to Ben.

“To the other nine chefs, I want to see you learn from this experience and come back next year, more determined than ever.”

Competition organiser David Mulcahy, Food Innovation and Sustainability Director at Sodexo UK and Ireland added: “The reason this competition has spanned half a century is down to the way we have developed it year on year to address the industry’s biggest issues and attracted the highest level of talent to enter and judge this competition.

“I know that Ben is joining a long list of incredible chefs who have become real ambassadors for our industry.”

The Craft Guild of Chefs is the largest UK chefs’ association with members worldwide in food service and hospitality, from students and trainees to top management, working everywhere from Michelin-starred restaurants to school catering.

WestKing is home to one of the UK’s leading schools of hospitality and culinary arts.

Find out more and apply for our courses here and apprenticeships here.