Now, this is not a hard luck story, but the business of helping people learn. Learning whilst at work is one of those things that really animates me – almost to distraction. Some are lucky to have followed the traditional path of education in the UK and have parents/carers that know how to get their children to university and beyond. My dear old mum and dad had absolutely no idea of what a university or further education was, or that any of our family could get there by their own means. Well up to my mid-thirties I tended to agree – or perhaps knew no different.  Indeed the phrase “poverty of expectation” was one that we all subscribed to, though not any more.

Old life, new life

With the words “and don’t bother coming back to school on Monday” my headmaster condemned me to unemployment at a tender age of fifteen. In fact, my worse fear was telling my mother I had been dumped out of school. On informing her of my predicament she just uttered “you’ll just have to get a job then”; the disappointment in her voice was palpable, but sadly, not unexpected. So after a short time working in the local laundry, an opportunity to become an apprentice printer came along. The experience of being an old school apprentice was something I look back with fond memories.

The people I worked with taught me so much about how work works. The dicipline of shift work, turning up on time and continual learning became second nature. To this day I love factories and the people that work in them. The sounds and smell of the oil and machines is evocative and nostalgic. Factory folk have a sense of humour that incoulates them from the sometime banality of repetitive work. There are too many stories to tell, some very unfashonable for today’s eyes and ears. After four years, a City & Guilds, a bunch of distinctions, I embarked upon a great career in the printing and graphics industry.

Lifelong Learning

Now then what on earth has this got to do with promoting lifelong learning at work I hear you cry. Well having hit my mid-thirties, I worked in a paper mill in both R&D & technical sales roles, that seemed to just employ new graduates in the prime positions.  It wasn’t until then that I cottoned on to the importance of education for work. Needless to say, my working class chippy attitude toward the graduates just sliding into the business in good jobs with seemingly little or no effort, wasn’t that helpful.  Though it did create a seminal moment in my working life. Sitting there it dawned on me and after a while, a decision was made to do something about it. A plan was hatched to do an MSc in ecology (environmental issues are huge in the paper industry), though I guess you have spotted the flaw in my plan……………..I am doing a postgraduate qualification without a degree!

Onward and Upward

Nevertheless, two years later with a fair amount a wailing and gnashing of teeth, a little bullying of my professor to take me on the course in the first place, I graduated with the MSc. This started a conversation with my then boss to part-fund an Open University BSc (Hons) degree in Psychology (took some persuasion as I am still in the paper mill at this point) and some additional qualifications in subjects including counselling, coaching and believe it or not hedge-laying! It didn’t stop there, the 2:1 degree from the O.U. moved on to an MSc in Occupational Psychology at Leicester University. Along with rafts of continual professional development, a PTTLS Adult teaching qualification, an opportunity to teach undergraduates at the University of Westminster business school and onto running my own work psychology & learning business

So as I say, it’s not an old sob story of a boy made better and none of my achievements would have been possible without unstinting support from workmates, managers and partners. There are countless tales of people at work today who have untapped potential,  that with careful nurturing can achieve great things – and of course, do on a daily basis. Young people sometimes don’t get education and going into work early on taking vocational qualifications can build confidence, self-esteem and valuable skills that they can utilise later on in life.


A healthy workplace can provide learning opportunities for the workforce to become the greatest commodity of the business. No one, least of all me, will say its easy but with well planned, structured and measurable learning at work, we can provide a platform for new and brighter ways of problem-solving, productivity and decision making in careers going forward. Therefore enhancing your knowledge can be the power necessary to fuel workforces to perform better and to perhaps change a few lives into the bargain.

Drop me a line to discuss the range of work psychology learning & development opportunities and coaching possibilities for you and your business.

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