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Luke Zdrenka, 23, studied on the BA in Musical Theatre at Arden School of Theatre, part of The Manchester College. He’s touring Germany as one of the Magic Tenors; an eight-piece male voice group performing popular and classical songs.
Luke went to De La Salle School in St Helens.
He found out about the Magic Tenors while working in Mallorca after graduation.
‘The manager of the show was working with my company and asked if I would be interested in auditioning. I did, and here I am today, touring Germany!
‘On a typical day, we get to the venue at 5pm for our sound check. We’re then free to grab some food. I get back an hour before show time so I can relax before the performance. The show starts at 7.30pm on a weekday and 8pm on a weekend. It’s two hours of music, including classic, rock and pop. We’re usually put up in a hotel the night after the show. The next day, I try to get out to see the area, as we’re only there for the day. Then we’re back on the tour bus, travelling to the next venue.
‘I learned so much at Arden. We covered a lot, including ballet, jazz, tap, acting for three hours, Alexander technique, singing and personal development. When I first started it seemed very tough and I was at college for sometimes 42 hours a week. However, I knew what I was getting into from the beginning and I got a lot from it. Without that training I don’t think I would be here today.
‘I have dyslexia and the support I got from the college was amazing. Without this support, I don’t think I would have graduated with a 2:1.
‘I’m planning to stay with the Magic Tenors as long as possible as we have some exciting plans. My long term aim has always been to perform in the West End. It’s a very hard business to be involved in but I’m determined to succeed.
‘If you want to pursue a career in theatre, you should definitely keep Arden School of Theatre in mind. The tutors are very professional and many have been working in the business for a long time. I had to do a lot of hard work to be where I am today. It’s up to you to succeed and Arden and The Manchester College are there to help you do just that!
Mark Hirons, 27, took a Level 1 Diploma in Wall and Floor Tiling at The Manchester College. Mark had an accident when he was younger that left him with memory loss. He was worried that he would struggle with exams but has passed them all with support from his tutor. Mark’s course has been a step towards running his own business and a chance to do something creative.
Mark, from Stockport, had problems with learning at school, due to severe epilepsy. He left with no qualifications but decided to go back to education when he became a dad.
‘I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school. I struggled to find a direction to take. The turning point came when I looked at my daughter and knew I wanted to make her proud. I’d been looking at doing tiling for a while. I love what you can do with the patterns. A friend of mine went to The Manchester College and said it was really good, so I thought “why not?”
‘I’m really glad I decided to take the course. It’s been challenging at times as I find it hard to learn in a group due to my disability. My tutor has been really supportive though, giving me one-to-one help when I need it.’
Mark hopes to stay on at the college to take courses at a higher level.
‘My goal is to start my own business. I’m trying to get my brother to come to the college so he can join me in building a family business!’
Maribel Ojeda, 36, took an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) qualification at The Manchester College. As well as learning English, she’s developed her skills in CV writing and preparing for interviews. She’s since found a great job in international sales and marketing.
Maribel did a master’s degree in communications in her native Colombia. She then moved to Spain and spent 15 years working in media relations.
‘I was a journalist in Colombia before I did my master’s. In Spain, I managed the internal and external communications for a public sector company. I worked on internal newspapers and communications. I also worked on a website and intranet with a designer. I moved to England with my husband when he found a job here.’
Unfortunately, although she had excellent work experience and qualifications, Maribel struggled to find work because she couldn’t speak fluent English. Then she came to The Manchester College and her luck began to change.
‘I started an ESOL qualification at the college and it’s really helped me. I’ve learnt a lot more than just English. I’ve developed my life skills in CV writing, IT and preparing for interviews. All the tutors are really supportive and patient which has been important. I’ve developed my confidence and have now started a great job in marketing and sales in the travel industry. I’m really enjoying working with people of different nationalities.’
(ESOL is also known as EFL, EAL or English as a Foreign Language.)
Jack Hinds, 22, studied on the Foundation Degree in Photography and Digital Imaging at The Manchester College. He’s doing a top up year at the college towards a BA in Creative Media and Visual Communication. Jack photographs the Manchester Giants basketball team as part of his college work.
Jack went to Moorside High School in Salford. He says the college has done a lot to help him towards his career goals.
‘The college has pushed me and helped me gain vital experience. Since I started studying here I’ve done a range of creative jobs, including a two-day commission for a leading manufacturer. As part of my current brief I’m working voluntarily for the Manchester Giants basketball team. They’re a professional team, playing in the British Basketball League.
‘In my first year at the college I found out I was dyslexic. I’d always known I had a problem but I never knew what it was until it was diagnosed at the college. The college has supported me in the areas where my dyslexia affects me.
‘I would advise future students to work hard and talk to your tutors about any problems you have. They can help you out a lot.’
Jack is aiming for a career as a freelance photographer, working with large companies.
Storm Wilkey, 23, studies on the Access to Higher Education Diploma in Professional Studies at The Manchester College. Storm left school with few qualifications and felt unfulfilled at work. Then she picked up The Manchester College prospectus. She’s now well on her way to a degree and a career in advertising.
‘When I first left school I was lost. I didn’t know anything about college, as surprising as that may sound to some people. I’d left with one GCSE – not because I didn’t want an education but because of my circumstances at the time. There was no one around me who spoke about going into further education. There were no role models to look up to.
‘I decided to look for work but the only jobs I could get were in care homes, telesales and cleaning. I felt I was doing back-breaking work that would lead nowhere. I put in 110%, while knowing in the back of my head that I wanted to be somebody else. I was tired of working for employers who didn’t appreciate my hard work. I wanted to make something more of my life.
‘The Manchester College was local and offered lots of different courses. Every course sounded amazing – I wanted to do them all! Reading the prospectus really got my career juices flowing. I decided I wanted to study business.
‘The college has provided me with world-class education and the tutors have changed my life dramatically. They’ve stood by me and supported me throughout the course. A tutor once told me to aim for the sky because if I fell I would land on the clouds. The Manchester College has motivated me to hold on to my dreams. No matter how hard life is, if you put something in you will get something out.’
Storm’s determination has paid off with a great university offer.
‘I’ve accepted a place on an advertising and brand management course at Manchester Metropolitan University. If you’re thinking of going back into education, I would say “do it!” You’ve already made the first move by thinking about it, why not better your life and your children’s future? Be the inspirational one and make that change.
'Coming to The Manchester College has changed my life for the better. I’ve made many friends and I now have a future. I know where I’m going in the next ten years. Live your dream, change your life, be successful and grow into the person you always wanted to be.'
Antony Cross, 40, studies on the Foundation Studies in Art and Design course at The Manchester College. Antony decided to take control of his career after his home was repossessed in the recession. He pursued his passion for art and now has a place to study at university.
Before he came to the college, Antony was a self-employed taxi driver.
‘After finishing school I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wasn’t provided with much guidance so I just did what my mates did and got a job. A few years ago, things became challenging. There wasn’t enough work and I struggled to make enough money to pay all my bills. In 2011 I hit rock bottom. I had my home repossessed and suffered from severe depression.’
Antony met with a careers advisor to go through his options. He’s always been interested in art and the careers advisor encouraged him to follow his heart and consider art courses. They put him in touch with a few colleges, but Antony took an immediate shine to The Manchester College.
This time last year, my life was a bit of a mess. It’s completely turned around now.
‘I was really nervous about returning to education as it’s been a long time. When I first enquired about the course, the tutors were very encouraging and friendly. They immediately invited me to look round the campus, meet the students and see the work they were doing. It was great to see that there were a lot of mature learners on the course.’
Antony originally enrolled on the course to improve his job prospects, but then his ambitions changed.
‘All my classmates were asking me which university I was going to and telling me where they were going. I could see how excited they were about doing a degree and thought maybe I could do it too. I applied for a BA (Hons) degree and have been offered a place. I can’t believe I will actually be going to university in September!
‘This time last year, my life was a bit of a mess. It’s completely turned around now. The course has boosted my qualifications and job prospects. Not only that, but I feel I’m now being true to myself by following my passion for art. I’ve made some friends for life who share the same interests.’
Tom Young, 18, is studying level 3 IT (software development) at The Manchester College. He’s been inspired to develop two apps in his own time and both are available on the App Store. Tom has a place to study computer science at university next year. He’s aiming for a career as a developer or tester.
Tom went to Audenshaw High School. Before coming to the college, he was at the Zenox IT Academy, doing a Microsoft Apprenticeship. He then worked for six months as a systems developer at Aria Longsight before deciding to go back into education.
‘Because I’m in college five days a week, I liaise with clients via email and do meetings at weekends. Fridays are a big day for me – I finish college at 12 and then I’m off sorting all my work out!
‘The course I’m doing is probably the most up to date IT course there is. As far as I’m aware we’re the only IT course at level 3 that does iPhone development.’
Tom has a place at Lancaster University to study computer science.
‘It’s a Bsc and I’ll hopefully move on to a masters from there. In the future I would like to continue with my business or become an IT security tester.’