James Le Poidevin, from Newton Aycliffe has a bright future ahead of him. He has a navy apprenticeship and will be a member of their boxing team and he believes he owes much of his success to UTC South Durham.
The eighteen year old left school after his GCSEs and went to the University Technical College with the intention of studying A-level maths and physics but as soon as he set eyes on the amazing range of equipment at the site on Aycliffe Business Park he decided to do engineering as well. He has spent two years studying Engineering Technical Design, a level three double award.
'The first two weeks we made gauges,' said James. 'It was really good to start off with practical things but the 3-D printer was what did it for me. I must have used it nearly every day. I love designing things on the computer and seeing them turn into real objects.'
He made individual keys for his computer keyboard and then became more adventurous as his skills progressed, making models for games and model cars.
He appreciated the facilities and the specialist teaching he received at UTC South Durham and benefited from the work experience too. 'At Hydram Engineering I worked alongside skilled craftsmen, finding out what they did and I had a go at welding. When I got to Finley Construction there were quite a lot of things I couldn’t do because of health and safety but I worked in the welding bay and got lots of practical help and now I’m quite a competent welder!'
James had originally set his sights on the Merchant Navy but became interested in boxing and found that this would stand him in good stead in the Royal Navy; 'When I was ten I was really into football and went to Aycliffe Boxing Club to improve my fitness. I soon found out that I enjoyed boxing more and when I had my first few fights, I found I was quite good at it.'
In fact, he was very good at boxing and has taken part in National Championships and represented England. He has recently been down to train with the Navy boxing team in Portsmouth. 'It was such an amazing experience,' said James,' like being a rock star with your own little flat.' He starts his basic training at the end of November and is hoping that he might join the boxing team in Barbados in February.
James believes that his time at UTC South Durham made an enormous difference to his life: 'If I had just carried on at school doing maths and physics A-levels I would still have gone into the Navy but at a lower level, on a salary of about £15,000. Thanks to the UTC I discovered engineering and I’m going in as an Advanced Apprentice in Marine Engineering at a starting salary of around £33,000. My time at the UTC will more than double my salary and open new horizons for me.'