Rojhat Dere, 22, is studying a PhD Mechanical Engineering at UCL, where he is researching future hydrogen fuel technologies, having previously completed an Engineering Level 3 Diploma at City and Islington College (CANDI).
He grew up on a council estate in Hackney and was told in Year 10 that he could expect to mostly receive D and E grades after missing half the year due to ill-health.
“It was quite demoralising, but it also motivated me to prove to myself and those around me that I was able to do better,” said Rojhat.
“I had a couple of teachers in my corner who helped me focus on my weaker subjects and I made a plan to get my grades up. That was the turning point.
“There was a lack of ambition where I lived. Not many people went to university or even thought about it. It seemed so out of reach. I was fearful of failure and regret if I didn’t do everything I could to get where I wanted to be.”
Rojhat pushed himself in his final year. He started school earlier and finished later, doing mock papers over and over. His hard work resulted in him achieving three As, four Bs and two Cs in his GCSEs.
His passion for engineering began at a young age and fixing his bike and building Lego models. He would regularly watch Top Gear and aviation documentaries on TV and his sister would take him to London City Airport to see the planes on her way to university lectures.
“I would spot planes using flight tracking apps and chart all the makes and models and see what engines they had. The technology intrigued me. I would look at the mechanics within the wing, and how all the components worked seamlessly together to get them up in the air,” he said.
Rojhat enrolled on an Engineering diploma at CANDI after meeting a lecturer with experience in aerospace engineering at his interview. He went on to pass with a triple-starred Distinction.
“The diploma a much different approach to learning. It was much more hands on, which helped me understand things better, rather than just taking A Level Maths and not understanding how it applies to the work you’re doing,” he said.
The practical side of the course involved using industry machinery and equipment in CANDI’s workshops and learning computer-aided design applications, which gave him a head start when he went on to study a MEng Aerospace Engineering at the University of Nottingham.
Rojhat was full of praise for his “inspirational” teachers at CANDI who gave students a realistic expectation of careers in engineering.
He said: “The teaching was great. Most of my lecturers were PhD engineers who knew what was required to study at a higher level and the system inside out, which was real plus in getting us into good Russell Group universities.”
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During his course, CANDI arranged for Rojhat to undertake an engineering work placement with McLaren Construction Group at a new development in Hackney.
“I shadowed a civil engineer who let me use their CAD software. We also went onto the construction site to check the steel bars before the concrete was put in, and make sure everything matched the designs,” he said.
“Even though it was civil engineering, it gave me a real insight into what engineering is as whole.”
Rojhat was part of a CANDI engineering team that came first in a competition run by Transport for London (TfL) to make its services more eco-friendly and sustainable. The team was awarded two weeks work experience working in various departments within TFL.
“CANDI is where my dream became achievable. Until I went there, I didn’t think I would get into a specialist engineering university,” said Rojhat.
“I’m now on the way to a career I always hoped for. It means everything.”
Engineering employs 5.5 million people in the UK and offers a broad range of careers in mechanical, electrical, chemical, and civil engineering as well as new green technologies.