I chose to do a BTEC Higher National course because of the hands-on approach to learning the skills and techniques compared to a much more theory based university course. I also liked the class sizes being small, allowing for a more personal learning experience where everyone knew each other, and the lecturers knew everyone's strengths and weaknesses.

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I had previously completed a BTEC Level 3 course at Heart of Worcestershire college. After that I spent time looking for an apprenticeship, but was unable to find one, and therefore decided to join the BTEC Higher National in Computing at the Heart of Worcestershire College to continue my education.

Kieran Williams

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I developed strong presentation skills

Some of the assignments required me to deliver presentations, which I found very good practice, especially as I was unsure of my ability to present in front of people. At the start of the year we only had small groups to present to, maybe three or four students and our lecturer. However, as the course progressed, the groups became bigger, eventually resulting in me presenting in front of the entire class. 

I have found this has become a useful skill to have developed, and the support given to me by both my friends and lecturers has improved my ability to present my current projects in front of the team at work, as well as the clients, with confidence.

Tasting the life of a freelancer (while studying)

During the course I also completed a project which allowed me to work with real clients throughout the second year of the programme. It really helped me to understand what it would be like to work for someone. 

This project allowed me to learn how to manage myself to make sure I can complete what is needed, by setting my own deadlines and taking responsibility if something went wrong. I found this process very helpful as it allowed me to find what my strengths and weaknesses are when I was given a project to complete with very short deadlines (due to the college calendar).

Growing the skillset with emerging technologies

This project also allowed me to work with Augmented Reality and the HoloLens along with how it can be used on a 5G network. This project led me to working on projects around the 5G network and visiting a Huawei conference where upcoming projects around 5G were on display. 

Along with the project, the units allowed me to explore multiple aspects of IT, from hardware and customer support to programming and digital creation. This involved 3D modelling, website design, computer hardware, application development and database design which gave me a range of skills which will be useful depending on what is required in this ever-changing industry.

My future in the computing industry

After starting the HNC I got a job working part-time as a programmer for the NHS, and kept that going through the entire course. This allowed me to get experience of working in a professional environment whilst also studying towards the qualification. After completing the programme I was able to gain full time employment as a developer with the same employer.

I enjoy what I do now and the team I work with is very friendly. In the future I’d like to work more with Virtual and Augmented Reality and maybe start my own business. I have also considered the possibility of completing the final year at university to turn my HND into a degree. However, I decided that having the experience is better than continuing down the education route, although it is still a possibility for me in the future.

The impact of a Higher National Diploma 

After completing the HND and graduating with a Distinction overall, I am certain this was the right choice for me. I believe I have been able to accomplish more with the support from staff at the College and my fellow students, than I would have if I found an apprenticeship. For this I would like to thank the staff of the Heart of Worcestershire College's Computing department along with all of the friends I made during the course who helped support me through the course.

If you’re thinking about starting a Higher National qualification, I suggest that you take the course seriously from the start, as it will help you to successfully achieve what you want from it. Although it's not just about the course; you are studying alongside likeminded people so it's important to get to know them as well. 

Your peers may be able to support you through any issues you may have during the course and even afterwards, as you will all be experiencing the same. Having people you can talk to is one of the most important things you can get from completing the course.

Another tip is to know your lecturers are there to help you through the course and if there are any issues you may have, they will always listen and try to help.