Ollie Birkett is the latest young person who is poised to complete the higher education pathway provided by Preston North End Community and Education Trust as he awaits his university results this summer.
Ollie’s journey is more than five years in the making; he first joined the PNECET Sports College studying a level 3 diploma in sport, before moving onto the foundation degree course in community football coaching and development, which is run in conjunction with the University of South Wales [USW] and the EFL Trust.
The diploma in sport course is for school leavers, with a level 2 or level 3 qualification available, and it is on completion of the level 3 course that students can then move onto the USW foundation degree – just as Ollie did, now almost three years ago.
Both courses offer students the chance to learn about multiple disciplines in the world of sport and gain invaluable work experience, while training and playing football representing PNECET alongside their studies.
Upon completion of the foundation degree last summer, a two-year course, Ollie chose to continue studying with USW through a top-up course in football coaching, development and administration, which will earn him a full Bachelor of Science degree qualification.
Along the way of his education journey, Ollie has taken advantage of several work experiences opportunities which has seen him take up a voluntary coaching role in the Preston North End Academy.
Not only that, he has worked as a casual coach on several of PNECET programmes, such as PL Kicks and Chorley Youth Zone, and his ever-growing amount of experience has helped him to gain opportunities elsewhere as well with the Soccer Hub academy.
As someone who has experienced the teaching of PNECET’s education team on various education courses, Ollie reflected on how he has been able to rely on the support of his tutors from the PNECET Sports College, allowing his career opportunities to grow.
“There is a big difference in terms of college work and university work, but the diploma course does prepare you for the foundation degree,” Ollie said.
“Going through the diploma certainly helped when it came to going onto the foundation degree. When you’re working with the same staff that you’ve been working with for the previous two years, it does make a lot easier to settle in because it’s still a new experience.
“It does have that comfortable feeling to it when you first start which is very helpful when it comes to getting straight to the work.
“It is quite tough work but it’s a university degree, it’s going to be tough. You have the support of the tutors still, they’re only an email away and throughout this COVID-19 situation, they’ve provided extra support and lectures and done their best to really help the students as best they can, which is really good.”
When moving on from the diploma course to the foundation degree, Ollie saw continued flexibility with regards to completing work and taking on work experience.
📽️ If you're set to leave high school this summer and are considering your education options for next year, make sure you check out the options we have available to study at the #PNECET Sports College. ⚽️@EFLCEFA @EFLTrust #pnefc pic.twitter.com/WQjIpXv3Vk— Preston North End Community and Education Trust (@pnecommunity) May 20, 2020
“It gives you plenty of time because you can manage when you watch the lectures, it’s very flexible,” Ollie said of the foundation degree. “You have more opportunity to pick and choose any opportunities that come your way.
“That freedom helped, it just allows you to pick and choose when you can complete the lectures and study. It gives you plenty of experience, which has been very good and in a professional club as well.
“Working with the club, it provides you with a lot of opportunities – I wouldn’t have worked with the PNE Academy if it wasn’t through this course and through Preston North End.”
Ollie believes his experiences and voluntary opportunities with the PNECET Sports College and subsequently the USW courses have allowed him to thrive and develop as a coach.
“When I first started coaching, I did have nerves – it’s not like performing in front of people but it’s all those eyes watching.
“It was very nerve-wracking at the start but throughout this whole experience, I’ve gained a lot of confidence, I’ve had a lot of hours of coaching, and it’s allowed me to get my Level 2 coaching qualification as well. It branches off to other qualifications that really help towards your coaching career.
“It’s fully developed my coaching knowledge, confidence and experience – it’s made it ten times better and that’s the beauty of the course really, to allow that work experience and flexibility around you.”
If you would like to know more about either our diploma in sport courses or the foundation degree offer with USW and the EFL Trust, please fill in our online expression of interest form here.