From Lowestoft College student to global businessman - oil consultant James King gives town students his tips for success
- Credit: James Bass
A former Lowestoft College student who went onto build a global oil consultancy and become one of the world's leading oil experts has urged young people to pursue degree-level qualifications – because of the increasingly higher level of skills needed in today's workplace.
James King left Kirkley High School without any qualifications and went on to study an apprenticeship at Lowestoft College for four years.
His time at the college in St Peter's Street transformed his career opportunities, enabling him to be one of the few people of his generation to go to university and later establish his own successful international business.
But on a return visit to his former college to give a careers talk to current engineering students, the 51-year-old – who now lives in Thailand – said: 'When I left school without any qualifications, there was always somewhere I would've got a job. Now, they haven't got those opportunities or they are very, very limited.
'We had shipyards where we were physically building stuff. No one was without a job. We even made designer shoes. That doesn't tend to happen now. If you can't build, the best option is to go to the top and learn degree-level stuff. They've got to be educated to design rather than build. I'm telling them that their next step should be university.'
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Happily for Lowestoft though, he said his former college 'couldn't be doing any more' to prepare students for a tough job market, highlighting the higher level of courses now on offer. 'You don't have to leave this building to get what I had to go to university in London for,' said Mr King. 'They actually provide now what I had to leave to do.'
As well as offering a wide range of apprenticeships and further education courses, students also have the option in many subjects to obtain higher level qualifications – including degrees or something equivalent.
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Although he said things like tuition fees and living expenses are concerns for many students, following his talk last Thursday (May 14), Mr King said: 'Speaking to the kids, I'm not sure they're aware of the opportunities they've got. I got a sense they weren't necessarily sure it was here on their doorstep.
'I've only done what I've done because of the teachers here. They've always had some fantastic members of staff.'
Ferlin Quantrill, business and innovation manager at Lowestoft College and previously the college's head of engineering for nine years, said it was 'inspirational' for the students to hear Mr King's story.
'His journey has been from somebody who had no qualifications to a top-class, world-recognised engineer, which is fantastic for them to be able to hear,' Mr Quantrill said.
He added that the college's curriculum was geared to the industries students might go into and the skills they might need in the workplace - and that the college would add courses if ever it felt there was a demand for a particular industry.
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