Former Richard Taunton Sixth Form College student Michael Steel has gone full circle and returned to the Southampton campus as a governor of its parent group, the Lighthouse Learning Trust.
Michael, now managing director of apprenticeship provider Kiwi Education in Southampton, made his first return visit in years when he came to a trustees’ open day recently.
“It was amazing to be back and after an hour I expect everyone else was a bit bored with me saying ‘I’ve got déjà vu,” he says.
“I remembered so many things that I had forgotten. When I walked into reception and I signed in, I remembered that at that exact reception was where I opened my first ever bank account – and I’m still with the same bank today. We walked past my tutor group room, which is now a gym, it was incredible how it all came back.”
Looking back to his student days, he credits the college with taking a chance on him and giving him a good start in life. “I had a turbulent year 11 through things that were going on at home just before my GCSEs so when I came to the open day at Richard Taunton my grades didn’t reflect where I felt my ability was,” he recalls. “But when I entered the college, the message was very much ‘don’t worry about what’s happened, it’s about where you’re going and we believe in you and we want to welcome you into the college’.
“That for me was a big reason I wanted to go to Richard Taunton, because it didn’t matter what the pieces of paper said, I had a story and they met with me and spoke with me and they could see that the grades I had at the time weren’t reflective on actually what I wanted to do. That meant a lot to me that they were able to see that.
Michael studied English, law and sociology at Richard Taunton before going on to work as a mortgage advisor and then as an apprentice at a national training provider working with disadvantaged young people to support them to get into employment. After that he worked with adults and young people and adults with learning difficulties, helping them get into work before returning to apprenticeships, first as a consultant and then with his own business, Kiwi Education.
“I would have never imagined when I was a student at Richard Taunton, if you said to me in 20 years’ time, you’re going to be doing this,” he says.
“I had a happy two years at the college. I felt that it was a college that the tutors were really, really, really supportive and it had a very community focused approach. One thing I learned from my time at Richard Taunton was to push myself to my full potential.”
He said he is relishing the chance to work with the college as a trustee and using the experience he has gained. “It’s got a really rich history and some good niche areas that other colleges don’t have,” he says.
“It’s got a very, very caring and passionate team and good relationships with the feeder schools in the area. I’m looking forward to shouting about the success stories the college has had over the years with a variety of students from different backgrounds who have gone on to do great things.”