A soldier who toured the world with the Army is building a new career in construction with the support of Wrexham Glyndwr University.
During 17 years in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Craig Roberts served in Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, Bosnia and Northern Ireland, as well as countries across Scandinavia and central Europe as part of a specialised NATO unit.
The dad-of-one, from Wrexham, moved from metalwork towards the end of his military days as he looked to rise up the ranks, however a change of circumstances saw him return to the region and enter the building trade.
As he again looked to progress Craig found there were more barriers to success, notably his lack of a higher education.
Having attended the former North East Wales Institute (NEWI) as a teenager to study welding, he is now back as a 47-year-old to study for a degree in Construction Management at Wrexham Glyndwr University.
“I had an incredible time in the Army, travelling the world and doing what I loved,” said Craig, married to Hayley.
“After 14 years I wanted to move across to become an Officer, but things did not pan out the way I hoped they would and I decided to come back to Wrexham and set up my own business.
“That proved successful, but a few contracts with big retailers were pulled from under us. I went to work for other people and the same thing happened, so I decided it was time for a change.”
He added: “I remember passing the university one day and seeing an advert for an open day.
“Being in my forties I thought any opportunity of going to university had passed me by, but I went along and was made to feel welcome and comfortable from the very beginning.
“There is a community of mature students and the lecturers have been brilliant.”
Craig was also finding, when applying for jobs, that his lack of a higher education was holding him back.
“I only had an NVQ Level Two in administration and a welding qualification from almost 30 years earlier, so I thought I had no chance,” he said.
“But they took into account my background as well as qualifications, so here I am, looking to enter my third year of the degree and graduate next year.
“You can go far with experience but in today’s world they are looking for more than that, which is why I’m here.
“You’ve no idea until you’re back in the classroom how you’re going to do, but I’ve settled in since day one and loved it. I’m also the course representative and we all support each other, socially and academically.”
Craig has now managed to secure a job with a local construction firm and believes his extra academic development will be of benefit to him personally, and the company.
“You do have to make to make sacrifices to do a degree and have a job at same time, but the flexibility of the course here really works for me and hasn’t held me back.,” said Craig.
“If anything it’s pushed me further and given me opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had.”
The university has unveiled foundation years for its suite of built environment degrees; Construction Management, Architectural Design Technology and Real Estate Management.
This makes it easier for prospective students who do not quite meet the requirements to take on an honours degree without delay.
David Cheesbrough, senior lecturer in Built Environment, said: “This is a big selling point for our degrees and will put to rest the concerns of people who do not feel they can get to university because they haven’t achieved the required academic levels.
“Craig is an example of someone who might have thought his days of learning were behind him, but he came to Wrexham Glyndwr University and has prospered – he’s a great example to others.”
For more information, visit the Wrexham Glyndwr University website or call 01978 293439