Former 14+ Apprenticeship Academy student starts his own businesses
Josh Dixon, now the Founding Investor and Director of WeeDuu and YourCode Recruitment Group, came to Leeds City College as a Year 11 student needing to complete all of his GCSEs after being let down by his previous schools. Our final open day in 2015 gave Josh a lifeline as it was his last chance to find his feet in education. “I needed to find something that would help me to develop my entrepreneurial flare so when I called up and found out about the apprenticeship academy, I was excited,” says Josh.
Our 14+ Apprenticeship Academy is an alternative vocational learning environment for studying Years 10 and 11. It gives young people a supportive place to gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in today’s workplace. “I really wanted to join the academy, I knew as soon as I met the tutors that it was the right environment for me.” We work with our students to ensure they are equipped with the skills valued by employers and we have experts in various fields that students learn from. “I valued that my teachers had industry experience, it made it much more real and felt like I was getting the best advice because of their real life experience.” Josh thrived because our style of teaching at the academy suited his way of learning and career goals. “It was eye opening to see the different career paths available to me. There were always opportunities with employers and I was made to feel capable. A Careers Adviser once told me to aim for a career as a HGV Driver because of my behaviour and attitude towards learning.” Our academy gave him more options and we were able to work with Josh to realise his full potential.
“For me, the academy felt like a grown up place to learn where we were treated like adults and knew our tutors by first name.” Classroom sizes at the academy enhance 1-2-1 tutor time with each student in comparison to main stream classrooms. “The environment was 10 times better.” Josh took and passed all of his GCSEs at academy. He also studied a 12 month IT BTEC Level 3 Extended Certificate and Business BTEC Level 3 Extended Certificate. “What I liked the most about studying at the college was the flexibility to adapt what we were learning to match our interests. For example, I could relate what I was learning in English and maths to help with my business work.” Ensuring our students stay engaged is vital to our teaching. We get to know their aspirations so we can give them the tools they need to do well. “I enjoyed business the most, it’s crazy to think I’d never seen a business plan before the academy. It was so practical, a text book can only teach you so much and the college taught me so much more. I learnt a great deal about effective communication which is a massively important skill to have.” Where possible, we give our students hands on experience in real life scenarios to prepare them for the world of work, “in business I came up with an actual business plan and did everything in-between from contacting suppliers, getting quotes, all the way to pitching the idea.”
Fast forward to almost three years later and Josh now operates his own businesses as well as working as a Professional Speaker and Independent Education Consultant. “I knew I wanted a business. I wanted to do it my way and do it differently.” He also works with other organisations and businesses across the UK. “Two huge international brands have just moved to London and I’m responsible for their post 16 and 18 strategy. This gives me the opportunity to share my story and inspire young people. I’ve also won a contract to speak to young offenders in prisons across the UK which I’m looking forward to starting.” Josh hopes to make his mark as a positive influencer in education, “I’m currently working with many government organisations on how the grading system can be improved to also include vocational studies.” He’s also in the process of recording a new programme with the BBC and has appeared on The Joseph Valente Show, hosted by the winner of BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’, Joseph Valente.
Josh has been able to turn his life around and hopes his journey can inspire others to do the same. “I’ve always enjoyed helping people and think it’s important to try different things. Look at what’s in your city. There’s only a gap if people don’t know something so do your research, look out for skill shortages in your industry, speak to your careers adviser, your tutors, family and find your niche.”