Just weeks after finishing his honours degree at Burnley College, student Ashley Harper is helping autistic people build lives for themselves within the community.
Now Ashley (27), from Burnley, has progressed still further in his career and works with autistic children at a residential home and school in the Ribble Valley, mentoring and supporting them to develop essential life skills.
Ashley said: “Now I’ve got a job I really enjoy I can see a bright future ahead of me, thanks to my degree and the support I received from my tutors.
“I re-started my education hardly able to speak up in class, I was so nervous, but, by the end I was giving presentations in front of the class and was even a Student Ambassador, letting other people know how, if I could get a degree, they could too.”
Ashley graduated with an Upper Second Class BA Hons degree and is considering further study, to Masters level, once he has discovered more about the career opportunities open to him, specialising in different aspects of social work.
Ashley was inspired to study social work after completing voluntary work for Child Action North West and after attending an open event at Burnley College, made the decision to return to study, while still working part-time.
He added: “I did an Access to University course over three days a week for a year and that was invaluable. It really prepared me for my university-level study, from referencing to time management, and made the transition to my degree so much easier.
“In my degree I studied everything from human growth and development to law, safeguarding and psychology: it was fascinating. My family were a great support to me. I’m the first person in my family to get a degree and that makes me so proud.”