Student praises CANDI teachers’ support after receiving £2,500 bursary

A student has praised the teaching and support at City and Islington College (CANDI) after becoming one of only two students nationally to receive a bursary worth £2,500.

Arda Afsar, 19, received the Peter Roberts Bursary from Collab Group, a group of 26 colleges and college groups in England including Capital City College Group (CCCG), which includes CANDI.

He applied for the award while studying a Business Level 3 Diploma at CANDI, which he passed with a D*D*D. He is now studying for an economics and finance degree at the University of Manchester.

Arda, who is originally from Turkey, returned to CANDI to receive the award from Mark Dawe, CEO of The Skills Network, which works with the Collab Group and colleges across the UK.

Thanking Collab Group, The Skills Network and his teachers and support staff at CANDI, he said: “The challenges I faced, having come from a disadvantaged background and a different country and having to learn a completely new culture and way of life, make me extremely honoured and proud to be accepting this award.

“I would especially like to thank my mum. She came to this country with nothing and yet she has given me everything. It’s fair to say I would not be the person I am today, without her.”

Arda gave special mention in his thanks to Business lecturers Regina Oparaugo, Salima Abdallah, Reuben Cape and Zak Hussain, and Student Engagement Officer Elizabeth Millard.

He said: “My experience at CANDI was amazing because my teachers were so supportive. They helped with looking at the higher education options available to me, writing my UCAS personal statement and choosing the modules I needed to take for what I wanted to study at university.

“The course gave me many different perspectives on business including marketing, finance and recruitment. I learnt about trial balances, cash flow, accounting formulas and equations, which I have been able to use on my degree. I always tried to do the best I could in my assignments, and I achieved really good grades.”

Arda plans to use the bursary funds to buy an iPad and a graphic calculator and course materials including textbooks. He hopes to eventually become an accountant or work in asset management or investment banking after he graduates from university.

The Peter Roberts Bursary was set up in memory of the late Chair of Collab Group and Principal of Stockport College and Leeds City College, who was known throughout the further education sector for his professionalism and commitment to students’ success.

Any student at a Collab Group college who has an offer to study at university or other higher education institution, or is looking to start their own small business, can apply for the bursary.

Yvonne Layne, Head of School for Business at CANDI, said: “One of the things I love about my job is when you see young people grow from a place where they hardly say good morning, to a place where they could not be more present. Arda is one of those students.”

“One of the things I admire most about Arda is how he has risen to every challenge, to be bigger and better in the face of adversity. I am very proud of him and pleased he has got this award and I wish him good luck and every success.”

Find out more and apply for Business and Professional Services courses here.

Boost your career prospects for FREE during the cost of living crisis

At City and Islington College (CANDI) we believe the cost of living should not come at the cost of your education and job prospects.

That’s why we run FREE Short Courses throughout the year to enable you to develop new and existing skills for your future regardless of your age or income.

Cost is one of the main barriers to learning and times are extremely tough at the moment, but there has never been a better time to learn or try something new.

Thousands of people have signed up for our FREE Short Courses since we started running them in 2018 and many have progressed on to full-time study with us.

And what’s more, all our full-time courses up to Level 2 and some at Level 3 are also completely FREE.

Tim Mansfield, 41, took a FREE short course in plumbing followed by a Plumbing Level 2 Diploma at CANDI’s sister college, the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

He said: “CONEL’s free short courses were exactly what I needed. They gave me the opportunity to try different trades without having to overcommit until I knew what I wanted to pursue more seriously. If they hadn’t been free, I’m not sure I would have taken the chance.

“The teachers are well-qualified and approachable, and always on hand with advice and support. I’ve made some great friends at CONEL and learnt some great skills that I fully intend to build upon in my future career. I’m excited about starting a new chapter.”

Our FREE Short Courses are run at our centres and online, in a wide range of subjects:

Find out more by searching FREE Short Courses and book a place at CANDI.

Book now for our Open Days at our centres on Saturday 12 November and Wednesday 23 November.

‘The only person that can tell an individual they can’t do something is themselves’

John Poulter was paralysed in a work accident and spent 14 years in recovery. Here he tells his inspiring story about how the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) gave him the chance to train as an electrician and run his own business.

John Poulter was 42 when his life changed forever.

The father of three was paralysed from the waist down when a forklift driver dropped a heavy pallet on his lower back when he was working as an HGV driver in August 2007.

John said: “I was dropping off a delivery. The forklift driver came out and the first two pallets came off without a problem. He then got a call on his mobile and while he was talking, he hit the tilt button and my life as I knew it ended.”

John’s recovery took 14 years, and he is now an electrician with his own business after training at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

Prior to the accident, John, now 56, had worked as a butcher and served in the British Army in the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Germany, Korea and the first Gulf War.

He was by his own definition “a man mountain” who would spend every spare moment when he was not working at the gym.

He said: “I had heavy muscle build and was still disciplined after coming out of the Army and wanted to develop myself. At weekends I was weight training and free running up and down hills with air cylinders and kegs to build up my cardio and breaking all my personal bests.”

John was airlifted to the Royal Surrey County Hospital and then transferred to the Royal London Hospital where he underwent two operations and then to a spinal unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire over the next four weeks.

He then spent the next 18 months at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore and over the following 12 years continued to undergo surgery and rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville.

“Those were the darkest days of my life,” said John.

“I was very angry and the most bitter, twisted individual you could come across. When I first got a wheelchair, I kept asking myself why am I sitting in it, why am I going through this, why me?”

John married his wife Adrienne a year before leaving the Army. They had two sons Craig and Perry and a daughter Becky who were teenagers at the time of the accident.

“I think the impact on them was more than it was on me,” he said.

“My wife has stuck by me through thick and thin. She was hard as nails and straight-faced on the outside but broken on the inside. She never let her appearance show her weakness and that’s what kept me going.”

Medical and psychiatric teams at Stoke Mandeville helped John to overcome his negativity and supported him throughout his recovery.

“My psychotherapist reprogrammed my way of thinking. It took two to three months to trust her and from there we moved forward all the time. Everything in my brain was saying what can I do? I had so much energy but nowhere to divert it,” he said.

In 2015, while John was living and still undergoing therapy in Buckinghamshire, his doctors asked him what he wanted to do next and suggested he go to college.

He began applying for electrical courses and was turned down by 44 colleges across the UK before being accepted and offered a place at CONEL.

He said: “I kept get red flagged all the time, college after college. Then CONEL took me on the assumption if I prove I can do it, they will put the building blocks in place for me. I told them if you tell or show me something, I’ll soak it up like a sponge and will achieve good results.”

John moved to Tottenham and went on to complete two Electrical Installations diplomas with Distinction at CONEL and became an advocate for diversity and inclusion at the college.

It was something of a homecoming for John who was born and grew up in nearby Enfield.

John said: “I can’t fault anything about CONEL. If it wasn’t for the college, I wouldn’t have moved forward. Everyone at CONEL treated me with dignity and has got my respect for the simple reason they opened one door, and every door after that has followed.”

Towards the end of his time at CONEL John launched his own business, JRP Electrical. He is currently studying for a Level 4 electrical qualification while also giving his time to help and inspire the next generation of electricians at the college.

He runs his business with Adrienne and son Perry, providing the tendering, design and contracting of electrical works for domestic and large developments. When visiting sites he uses ramps, chairlifts, cherry pickers and creepers to aid his mobility.

Earlier this year John met Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at the launch of the Mayor’s Academies Programme, a £44 million investment to provide free skills training to get people into work and boost the capital’s recovery from the COVID pandemic.

CONEL secured £250,000 to run a Green Academy Hub that is working with employers to create training opportunities in the construction and green industries.

“The only person that can tell an individual they can’t do something, is themselves,” he said.

“I don’t admit failure, I never have done. I’ve always given everything 100 per cent commitment and looked at my results and thought can I do better.

“You can and will overcome the challenges you will face. Keep pushing because you will get there in the end. Your best days are not behind you, they are yet to come.”

Find out more about our Construction courses and apprenticeships.