Carving out a new future
'It's different going to college as an adult. You see the end target so investing in your education is value for money because you know you won’t throw it away.'
19 June 2015
There comes a point in everyone’s life when you focus on what makes you happy, re-think what you’re doing and figure out what needs to change. For Kristian Dalziel from Cornwall, UK, this point came after many years of working in the IT sector and realising one day that it was no longer what he wanted to do.
'I found that I was trapped. I didn’t have a way out as I hadn’t formally learnt anything – I’d always taught myself my IT skills.' The 43 year-old went on to add, 'My wife noticed that I wasn’t exactly the nicest person to be around at that point in my life, and she suggested I find something else to enjoy in life.'
Thanks to the support of his wife, he started taking night classes. It soon became apparently that Kristian has a talent and passion for woodwork, so he started doing free work at a local joinery to gain more experience in the craft. Unfortunately, an apprenticeship wasn’t a viable option so Kristian decided to pour his hard work and commitment into a full time Level 3 Furniture Design and Making qualification at Cornwall College.
'Originally I had thought about doing joinery but my wife and I talked about how I could do this at home, as joinery really needs big machinery. So furniture making became a more and more obvious choice. So many people need furniture – from fitted wardrobes to coffee tables.'
At the start of his qualifications, Kristian’s wife became pregnant and they had to find a new balance in their lives.
'It was quite hard as I wasn’t earning much working on the side whilst I went to college,' says Kristian thoughtfully, 'but not as hard as staying in a job I hated. Now I look after my son two days a week and catch up on work during the weekends or evenings. Because I changed my lifestyle I’ve been able to be with my son everyday since he was born – something I wouldn’t miss for the world.'
Kristian describes going to college as a transformative experience, particularly the support he was given to learn and grow.
'I think its different going to college as an adult – you see the end target of your course so investing in your education is value for money because you know you won’t throw it away. I found it difficult at first because I had bad habits with learning and thinking about problems, but they taught me to look at things from a different perspective, and that was eye opening for me.'
But the support hasn’t ended there. Even though Kristian has a garage and shed at home to work out of, sometimes he still visits the college to use their larger machinery – and to pick the brains of his former lecturers if he’s struggling on a job.
'My lecturers - Owain Harris and Richard Buckingham - are incredible. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be here. Between them they have over 30 years experience, they’ve done everything. I’m always getting in touch with them if I hit a problem, and they give great advice.' A pause, and with a smile in his voice added, 'They really tell it as it is – the other day I rang Richard up with a problem and he’s response was, ‘I wouldn’t have made the mistake because I would have planned it properly.’
'He did follow up with more useful advice but I definitely plan things better now!'
Kristian completed his qualification in June 2014, and hasn’t looked back since then. His outstanding work and dedication saw him awarded a prestigious City & Guilds Medal for Excellence, and thanks to word of mouth he now has three months worth of work to keep him busy.
But his learning journey isn’t ending there. He’s already got eyes on his next qualification and how he can improve his skills even more.
'I’m thinking about studying design now as I’ve never done art before. The design has been my weakest part. I really want to have designed pieces - not plain and boring - I want them to have multiple purposes. I’m getting advice from a friend on how to draw, and keeping a sketch book, but I’d want to get something more formal like a qualification.'
And it seems the learning bug hasn’t just bitten Kristian, his wife has now signed up for a City & Guilds qualification, Level 2 Fashion Design.
Kristian ends with some great advice: 'It’s a huge thing changing career and I understand why people sit on the edge and don’t jump off. But you really do have to make that decision, and make it 100%, because if you don’t you’ll lose more. Doing this has really changed my life; I can’t even put it into words.'