In a recent article we looked at the difficult situation and job fears that many students on construction related degree courses are currently facing, and those of us that already have some work experience on our CV’s to offer prospective employers should probably consider ourselves fortunate. Yet in the tough job market many are looking to stand out from the crowd by gaining professional memberships or considering higher education qualifications.We interviewed Jason Coffey, a mature student at the University of Wolverhampton, to gain a first hand insight into what its like for those pursuing the higher education route.Jason, like many, you’ve come to the construction industry via a previous career. What was it that made you decide to pursue a career in the construction industry?”Like many others, 2008 ended with me finding myself out of a job. Having 14 years in the recruitment industry I knew that things were only going to get worse and needed to get a new career. Having recruited professionals for the construction industry, I knew that I had the capabilities to be a Quantity Surveyor but just needed the knowledge and degree to back it up.After a short interview I was accepted as a mature student on the CIOB Quantity Surveying course at the local Wolverhampton University. As I did not want to specialise on the building side of the construction industry, and after a lot of harassing of my course leader, I was able to move over to the RICS accredited Commercial Management & Quantity Surveying course from semester two.”How did you feel about becoming a mature student? Do you feel you were at an advantage or disadvantage from those coming straight from school?”Going to higher education for the first time was always going to be difficult in terms of getting back into the learning habit, but time management was always going to be the main difficulty for me. Having a teenager at home and the arrival of a new born just three months from the start of my first year made juggling home responsibilities and course assignments even more difficult. Grabbing half hour here and there for my studies I knew would make the difference between just passing and achieving grades to be proud of.While working in recruitment there were numerous occasions where clients would stipulate that they would not even consider anyone unless they had a minimum of a 2.1, whether this was right was not for me to argue at the time. With this knowledge I knew that being a mature student I needed to stand out from the thousands of other students who will be graduating at the same time as me, but will be 15 years younger and a few thousand pounds per year cheaper to employ, so I have set my target of a first class honours degree to achieve this.”Good to see you aiming high! So how’s it gone so far?”Academically I feel things are going well so far, 5 A’s, 1B and a two disappointing C’s are what I have to show for my first year. I now know that I need to step up to the plate for the second year as all grades now form part of my final grade, but a good benchmark has been reached so far.”Any particular obstacles that you’ve come across?”So far most of the obstacles to success I have had to overcome have been ones that I have expected and have met them head on. The one that I did not foresee was the financing of my degree. We all hear the stories in the news saying students will be coming away from university with £20,000+ debt, and now it seems that is likely to rise to £40,000+ from 2015, but actually getting the finance has almost been impossible. With family and financial commitments and receiving grants 3 months late for both my first and second year has been a headache that if I knew was going to happen would have made me think twice before starting the course in the first place.”How do you feel about the current economic situation and are you optimistic about your future career?”I am looking forward to the prospect of a career in Quantity Surveying more so than some of my fellow students. I have had the pleasure of working for a civils contractor this summer that I had dealings with while in recruitment who gave me valuable experience, something that many other students will struggle to find even at the end of their second year as a summer placement or as part of a sandwich year. As far as securing a full time position when I graduate I am probably more confident than most. I predict that by the time I graduate in 2013 the industry will be back in the habit of recruiting again and the latest great recession will be behind us – until the next one that is!”Thanks Jason – and Good Luck!