Former refugee reflects on how coming to Eastleigh College changed his life
Djoulde Bah recently graduated from university with a First-Class Honours degree in Building Services Engineering, the culmination of a fifteen-year educational journey that began with a path-breaking SLUKY (Skills for Living in the UK) course at Eastleigh College. He recently reached out to us to share the doors and life opportunities that this course unlocked for him.
Djoulde couldn’t speak a word of English when his family moved from Guinea to the UK in 2007. At fifteen years old he was lacking in all basic academic skills except IT, having worked in an internet café since the age of 12. His Eastleigh College SLUKY course provided him with a crucial foundation in English and maths, as well as equipping him with the personal skills required for living and working in the UK.
Djoulde said: “It was very challenging at first and many times I wanted to give up. I’ve never forgotten how patient the teachers were, how they never became frustrated or short-tempered no matter how many times I requested their help. Even after I left, the College never relinquished their support network and were on hand to assist me through important life moments, such as signing my driving licence and helping create and distribute my CV.”
During his SLUKY course Djoulde developed an ambition to become a doctor as he wanted to change lives. Upon completing the course, he retook his GCSEs at Barton Peveril College and it was during a career fair here that he encountered a marine engineer, who was intrigued by his ambition. Djoulde learnt of the critical importance of an engineer’s work and how they designed the very machinery doctors work with and the buildings they are based in – in this way, he realised he could change lives within this profession as well.
It was this lightbulb moment that brought Djoulde back to Eastleigh College, where he completed his BTEC extended Diploma in Building Services Engineering as part of an apprenticeship. Keen to get involved in the industry, his next step was to use this experience to try and become an Electrical Engineer.
“I was one of 22 candidates for this position within the Hampshire County Council organisation and the only one who had an apprenticeship qualification instead of a degree,” said Djoulde. “I had barely arrived back home from the interview before I received a call with the job offer. It really demonstrated how valuable my training had been.”
Since then, Djoulde has gone from strength to strength in his career, with over ten years of experience in the industry and working with large organisations such as AECOM and Network Rail. In a bid to progress further still in the trade, he opted to study Building Services Engineering at London South Bank University where he achieved First-Class Honours and has recently celebrated his graduation, postponed for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Djoulde concluded: “I look back on my journey and it has been unbelievable. I came here with nothing and now I have a great career, a family and a home. This all began with my SLUKY course at Eastleigh, which my wife and mother have now completed as well. I can never thank the teachers enough for all they have done – in many ways, they have saved a life.”
Elspeth Wood, Djoulde's former SLUKY tutor, said: "I remember Djoulde as a highly motivated student. I am delighted to hear of his success and wish him all the best for the future".
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