Colleges Week: City & Guilds staff fondly remember their college days

Since its first year, Colleges Week has gone from strength to strength promoting what colleges can do for their students and staff alike.

19 October 2022

Monday 17, October kicks-off by celebrating the fifth consecutive Colleges Week.  

Using the hashtags #LoveOurColleges and #CollegesWeek, students, past and present are going all out to celebrate and fondly remember their college experiences and the boosts that further education gave them.  

Each year, the organisers’ Association of Colleges focus their special week on a particular topic, this year the theme is: Staff, Students and Skills, the very lifeblood of what makes a college tick.

Here at City and Guilds we asked our staff if they could tell us about their college days and how they shaped their careers. Many thanks to Layla Croll, Michael Osbaldeston and Jessica Cawthorne for sharing their stories. 


Layla Croll: Senior Lead Learning Designer, Kineo 

At 15 Layla found that she was struggling at school and didn’t do very well in her GCSEs. So, with a little encouragement from her parents, at 16 she decided to opt for college and complete a BTEC in Media Studies and retake some of her GCSEs at the same time.  

It was through this decision that Layla felt everything fell into place.  

“The learning style was collaborative, the tutors treated me like a grown-up, and there were practical, social aspects to the learning,” says Layla. 

In her new college environment, Layla passed her modules with flying colours which then propelled her to continue studying at university.  

After completing her degree, Layla secured a job on a Miramax film and kick-started a career in TV production. This career spanned ten years, working her way up to a senior position at the BBC.   

“I have my own IMDb page, which is really funny,” Layla tells me. 

After leaving the BBC, Layla moved into film festival management before discovering an interest in creating online courses for a red-brick university, which led to her current position as a Senior Lead Learning Designer at Kineo.  

Reflecting upon the start of her education at college, completing a Btec in Media Studies, Layla recalls that the work experience opportunities from college were key to finding her place in the world. 

“I don't think my first opportunity would have come without my college course. I owe my happy and fulfilling career to it. Best decision I ever made., she says. 


Jessica Cawthorne, Campaign Marketing Executive, City & Guilds

After spending her school years surrounded by the same group of people, Jessica wanted something more, something new and something that would build her into a career.  

So, after completing her A levels Jessica wanted her next steps to include more practical experience.   

‘I was excited to be accepted onto a Level 3 Digital Marketing Apprenticeship, with my training through Doncaster College,’ Jessica tells me. 

Beyond attending college as part of her apprenticeship, her college did what they do best, it helped Jessica to build new relationships with people pursuing a career in the same industry. 

‘As someone who has always been quite shy, being in a class of people of a variety of ages and knowledge, helped to push me out of my comfort zone,’ she says. 

With everyone in her class pursuing the same career she was able to share technics and knowledge with her classmates. It was this inclusive environment which proved to have a positive impact on Jessica’s career progression.  

‘I went from being someone with high levels of anxiety about public speaking to giving a speech about my experience as an apprentice to employers in the area at the college,’ says Jessica. 

As well as the technical knowledge that Jessica needed for her chosen career, attending college gave her the invaluable personal skills that she uses daily in her integral role as a Campaign Marketing Executive at City & Guilds. 


Michael Osbaldeston: Special Advisor, City & Guilds 

Michael is nearing his third decade working at City & Guilds but owes his impressive career to his early days working in a college.  

‘To be honest, it was working in a further education college that got me my job,’ Michael tells me.  

As a Special Advisor, Michael says that the beginning of his vast-ranging career dates to 1993 when he began creating a marketing and employer engagement department in a college. During this time, he also supported the Corporate Relations team at City & Guilds, seeing the power of the City & Guilds brand first-hand.  

‘At the time, we were the go-to college, always ready to say yes and always ready to was very exciting,’ he says. 

Acting as a tutor for Basic Skills, Michael’s success was even captured in their 1993 publication. 

Building on this success and spotting an opportunity, when the Head of Communications and Public Relations retired, Michael aptly applied for her job and got it.  

Michael believes that a career spent working in further education is both a joy and a privilege, a world where individuals go on intensely personal journeys, and often for the very first time. He echoes Layla’s views that colleges offer a supportive environment, dedicated staff, and the opportunity to move forward without all the baggage often picked up in schools. In addition to these positives, colleges are inclusive environments which serve the local community, a theme for this year's Colleges Week.   

‘I passionately believe that we should respect individuals, where they are and walk with them; seeing ordinary people achieve extraordinary things is a privilege to be involved with. 

Colleges Week: How to get involved 

We all know the amazing, transformative work colleges do. So why not help to promote this good work by using the tags #LoveOurColleges, and #CollegesWeek on: Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The AoC will monitor the hashtags and happily reshare lots of exciting content. Go on, share the love and support your local colleges. #LoveOurColleges