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An Interview with Beth Walker

4 January 2024
We caught up with Beth Walker, a former student and adult learner, to talk about her experience studying at EKC Folkestone College.

Are you an adult learner looking to retrain on a new career path? Or maybe you’re interested in studying joinery, and would like to find out more?

We caught up with Beth Walker, a former student and adult learner, to talk about her experience studying at EKC Folkestone College and find out a little bit more how she ended up working at RetroGlaze, a joinery, carpentry and glazing company that specialises in period renewal and reinstatement and refurbishment. 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before joining our course.

I came to study at the college aged thirty two. Before then most of my professional career was working in arts education. I was born in Folkestone but moved to London at eighteen to study painting at Chelsea College of Art and Design. Since then, I have spent a lot of years between London, Folkestone and abroad in many parts of Europe. 

What made you decide to study joinery in particular? 

I have been doing carpentry work for many years, with my first paid job at nineteen. However, a lot of time was spent just casually learning from others or being self-taught. Two years before I re-trained at the college I was living in a van with my best friend for a year travelling Europe. We spend some weeks in Athens, Greece, working on projects with refugee communities where I took part in a lot of carpentry and building projects. 

It was during this time that Ben and Charlie who were running a wood workshop encouraged me to see the skills and potential I already had. After some time to think about it on the road, I decided that when I returned to England not only did I want to build everyday but that I wanted to be a skilled craftsperson too. 

What was your favourite thing about the course? 

There are too many things for just one answer here! I love the challenge of the subject itself. Bench Joinery is all about precision and attention to detail. I loved the range of projects we had in both Level 2 and Level 3, and the technical knowledge and skills they each developed. 

The staff were amazing. Each had their own expertise and experiences, and I really enjoyed making the most of learning from each of them. Also, the facilities are second to none! I knew I would miss the workspaces and wood workshop when I left, and I was right to think so! I don’t know any other space in the South East that comes close. 

What was your favourite project that you had the opportunity to work on during your studies? 

For my coursework, I loved the bay window project in Level 3 Bench Joinery. It was very complex and took a number of weeks, but I got to practice a wide range of skills, hand tools and shop machinery. My tutors were very patient and helpful, and the skills I developed here have helped me so much in professional life. 

There were also lots of community projects going on too. I’m looking forward to seeing how Kingsnorth Gardens develops! 

How did you get involved with RetroGlaze? 

I was introduced by Nik and Julian from the College! RetroGlaze got in touch looking for new joiners and carpenters, and the college put me forward from that year. There is also another ex-student working there full-time as well, so the college have really supported our progression. 

What was your first day like? 

It was great! I went before to meet the manager and joiner before the beginning of my two week trial shift. This really helped with my nerves and knowing I would fit in. I remember being a bit anxious, but also really excited and eager to learn. And those feelings haven’t changed much, even after three months of working there! I’m so happy to be working at RetroGlaze and developing my skills, knowledge and industry experience in a field I know I love. 

If you could give a piece of advice to someone else thinking of retraining, what would it be? 

Go for it! It’s amazing how many people say to me “I always wished I could be a joiner / carpenter” or “I really admire you for retraining.” Don’t get me wrong – it is a lot of hard work and you have to be committed if you are going to do it (and do it well!) 

But if that is you, it is so worth the time and energy. Two years at EKC Folkestone College whilst juggling other work and life, and now I have transformed my life to be working in a totally different industry. I really can’t thank EKC Folkestone College enough and I would really encourage you to check out what may be available to you if you are thinking to retrain too. 

Feeling inspired by Beth’s story?