Meet Rachel Gray- Assistant Principal Adult & Community Learning
Rachel left school with few qualifications, but has worked her way up to being the Assistant Principal of Middlesbrough College and an inspirational leader for her team at the College’s dedicated Adult & Community Learning Centre.
After finishing secondary school with a handful of GCSE qualifications, Rachel enrolled onto a childcare course at Middlesbrough College (formerly Kirby College) and re-sat her maths GCSE. She completed the Level 3 BTEC diploma and progressed to Sunderland University to study for a degree in Social Work with ambitions to become a qualified Social Worker.
After being diagnosed with borderline dyslexia and struggling with her degree due to lack of support, Rachel decided to drop out of her degree programme and return to Middlesbrough College for her Higher Education studies.
She enrolled onto the Foundation Degree in Childhood Studies and excelled in the course, all whilst working a series of part-time jobs including working in primary schools as a teaching assistant and support for breakfast clubs, working in health care as a care co-ordinator and being a nanny for a footballer! After completing her 2-year qualification, 22-year-old Rachel found out that she was expecting her first child, but this didn’t stop her from enrolling onto her top-up programme to complete her BA (Hons) Childhood Studies degree.
Rachel said: “I loved my time studying as a student at Middlesbrough College. My tutors were supportive of me and it's great that some of them still work at the College now! I would recommend studying for a degree with Middlesbrough College, everyone is friendly, and the College can give you all the tools and support you need to succeed.”
During her University studies at Middlesbrough College, Rachel gained a position as a nursery manager and worked full-time whilst studying and raising her baby daughter. She said: “It was hard work and looking back I’m not sure how I did it. I really pushed myself to prove everyone wrong who had told me I couldn’t do it or wouldn't succeed, and I was delighted when I finished my BA (Hons) degree and graduated.
“I was also working as a nursery manager during my degree studies and found I really enjoyed supporting students who came for a work placement with us. I loved nurturing their skills and helping them develop and that’s what initially got me into training.”
After the breakdown of her long-term relationship, 22-year-old Rachel decided to go back to education, she left her job, moved back home with her parents and enrolled onto her PGCE in education. She then took the jump and started to work for a local training provider and support people back into employment. She said: “I learnt so much during that time, both personally and professionally and knew I had found my passion.”
Rachel worked at People Plus for six years and was the North East Regional Manager for training and Skills before she joined the team at Middlesbrough College. She joined the College in 2018 as Head of Employability and Projects and has since gone from strength to strength. She said: “I started at the College in the job shop managing a small, but amazing team. We have now progressed into our very own Adult and Community Learning Centre, a dedicated building just for adult skills and training and I’m heading up a team of 46 members of staff!
“My team deliver a range of courses for adults including distance learning, community learning, sector skills academies, skills bootcamps, ESOL courses and functional skills maths and English. I have lived in Middlesbrough all my life and know we have amazing talent here, it’s my job to ensure everyone has access to meaningful training and any barriers to learning are broken down.”
Led by Rachel, the Adult & Community Learning team focus on raising aspirations and improving the wellbeing of learners by providing courses that will help them find meaningful employment. They work closely with a range of employers across Teesside to ensure people have the right skills they need for industry and do this by providing closely aligned training and job opportunities. Not all students progress into employment but make positive steps within their own personal lives after accessing our support and training.
Rachel said: “I’ve worked at the College for five years now and been promoted into 4 roles since I started back in 2018. Although my role hasn’t changed massively, the level of responsibility has grown and grown, and this is down to the hard work and commitment of my fantastic team.
“I enjoy supporting the fantastic employers that we work so closely with. We tailor the courses that we deliver to suit their needs, which also supports the adults that we work with and helps them to get into employment quicker.
“I’m so proud of the Adult & Community department and how much we have grown and achieved over the years. I think coming from a deprived background and leaving school without many qualifications has made me passionate about supporting people and showing them what they can achieve with hard work.
“I love working at Middlesbrough College. My team are amazing, and everyone is so passionate about what they do. My advice to anyone considering applying for a role at the College is to go for it! It’s the best place I’ve ever worked!”