A former soldier who spent 26 years in the British Army has swapped the front line for a first-class degree from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
Simon Jones, 46, has graduated with a BA (Hons) in Social Work and has already accepted a position with Lancashire County Council’s Children’s Social Care team in Chorley.
A long military career as a WO1 (GSM) in The Rifles saw him tour the world, but as he approached the end of his service the dad-of-two from Skelmersdale began to consider a career in social work.
He explains: “Working in the infantry you come across people from all walks of life and I met people who had come from broken homes and difficult backgrounds. I wanted to help people like that, and I was inspired by my mother-in-law who is also a social worker.”
"I was older than most people on my course and one of only a few men, but my tutors were fantastic and there was lots of support available."
Simon’s journey wasn’t straightforward and he was rejected from 13 universities because, although he held a range of management qualifications, he had left school before sitting his exams.
“It was frustrating,” Simon admits. “I’d started to apply to universities before I was discharged from the army but I was worried I’d have no career to go to, and I’m someone who has worked consistently since I was 16.
“Thankfully, UCLan offered me the opportunity to complete a foundation degree in science at Runshaw College and then progress to social work. I still needed to get my GCSEs, so in my first year I was attending night school as well as studying for my degree and being a dad.
“It was tough at first, especially as I had to learn how to study which was a whole new concept for me. I was older than most people on my course and one of only a few men, but my tutors were fantastic and there was lots of support available. The facilities are brilliant too, and the University just generally has a great feel to it.”
"Graduating feels like such an achievement and my family are all very proud. I’m so grateful to UCLan for giving me the opportunity for this career change."
As part of his degree Simon, who is originally from Birmingham, took up a statutory work placement in a child protection role, which is what led to his securing a full-time position.
And while he is proud of his years in the military, he says he excited about the next chapter in his life.
“I had a successful career playing soldiers but eventually you have to come back to reality,” he says. “The kids are excited that dad’s coming home for a change, and it’s nice to be able to be a family unit again.
“Graduating feels like such an achievement and my family are all very proud. I’m so grateful to UCLan for giving me the opportunity for this career change.”
Simon is one of more than 4,000 students who graduated in front of family and friends at Preston’s Guild Hall.