Barrie Archer: Perspectives from a Mature Student…

I returned to education in 2016 after a while, ok quite a while ago! I left school in 1987 and yes I am older than most of the cases you are currently learning. Now education back in my day was turn up, not get caned and pass the odd exam and that was good enough. The thought of University was never even suggested during my time at school. It was just something you didn’t do from my background.

I was lucky enough to have forged out two successful careers since leaving School. The first, a non-commissioned officer in the British Army, and the second, a Police Sergeant serving the public of Warwickshire. That’s the official line, most of my time I spent clearing up other people’s mess or trying to sleep on nights without being caught. Having been medically retired from the Police 2011 due to mental health issues and losing the use of my left hand (long story short, some nice lady decided to bite my finger off), I found myself sitting at home not having a clue what I would do next.

With the options for work limited due to my medical issues, I decided on the advice of my Psychiatrist to return to education to get my brain working once again. I started off by doing an access to Law and Business course. I then applied to complete a Foundation Degree in Criminal Justice. After 1 day on the course the tutor told me to man up and actually go and do a Law Course.

So here I am sat in my second-year reading law books. Has it been easy? God no. I’ve had to learn basic things like grammar, writing essays, Et al, and Latin, at a time in my life where I thought I’d be sat back doing a job I knew and loved with ease.

So first year went with a whirl and I achieved my aim of passing my first year. Would I have liked better grades, hell yes, but I got through the year 1 so was happy. During my first year, however, I listened to others on the course talking about the work experience they were doing or the mini-pupillages they had carried out. I applied to about 20 different chambers and got 20 rejections. I got my CV checked and was told it was fine and that I should add back in other things that had happened in my life. People couldn’t understand why I was being rejected. I was looking at Criminal Sects, and with my experience in the Justice system, I’d be an ideal candidate.

So year 2 arrives and we get offered the chance to get a Peer mentor from the local legal profession. Now, I have made some good decisions in my life: marrying my wife; not eating yellow snow; not getting shot at – oops forgot that one; eating my vegetables; I could go on.
So I will; Walk don’t run when holding scissors…….
Anyway, the first thing I said to my peer mentor was, “Will my age be a factor when applying for Training contracts”. I got the usual answer that no is shouldn’t. However, as we got to know each other and I explained I was a realist and lived in the real world I got the best advice I could have got. That yes my age was a hindrance.

Now before you all run off to grab the equal opportunities act and cry discrimination: Lets get real. I am up against some very talented young people who can offer an employer the potential of 40 odd years work. I can offer hopefully 20 years. That’s only cause the Government keep moving the retirement date. I would like it to be a lot less.

So the advice I have been given is apply to Governmental organisations such as CPS and the GLS. They are more likely to look at my experiences favourably. They should anyway, the Government paid for most of them. Plus I make a mean cup of tea.

So what have I learnt: get yourself a mentor you can work with; ask the hard questions; be realistic; but don’t close doors; every conversation is an opportunity to sell yourself.

Life is short. I should know. I am ahead of most of you. Make the most of every opportunity and meeting.

And before I go the 80’s is not history it was only yesterday.