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Career Change; a great decision for Phil and Jo

Phil Wanley and Joanne Spence

Two fitness fanatics have left the safety of their previous careers to start up their own business with the help of Hartlepool College of Further Education. Phil Wanley, 34, and Joanne Spence, 35, from Hartlepool have each started their own personal training businesses after taking the first step towards a new profession with the College. The pair studied a Level 2 Fitness Instructor course at the College in 2017 before moving onto a Level 3 in Personal Training and ultimately gained employment through the College which led to setting up each business.  

Joanne, who is the mother of a 13-year-old daughter, said: “I’d been working in retail since the age of 15 and back in 2013. I was six stone heavier than I am now which led me to want to get fit and active. “That was when I discovered my love for fitness, and I decided to take a course to become qualified. It’s not like a job at all for me as it’s something I enjoy so much. It totally makes a difference when you are looking forward to starting your day.”

Phil, the father of three boys, said: “I’d worked in an office in a customer services role for around 10 years and like Jo I wanted a change. “I’d become bored and unmotivated, so I started to look at ways of doing something I enjoyed. I decided to take training up as a job and came to the College to educate myself.”

Jo followed: “It’s nice that we’re both here as we studied together and even though we may have competing businesses we aren’t rivals. We help each other as much as possible and that’s because of the friendship we built at the College. As soon as we qualified from the course our lecturer put us both forward for a job in the College’s gym giving us the opportunity to get our foot on the ladder. We both went for the job and were both appointed which was great. The whole journey from our first qualification has flowed so well and that’s thanks to the help the College had given us.”

Phil and Jo now provide personal training from the College’s Luminary Gym and also take part in enrichment coaching for students with mental and physical issues.  Phil said: “Fitness is a great way to relieve stress and the College puts students through this coaching to help them. You can see a massive difference in these students after a couple of sessions. They start coming out of their shell and their confidence grows. The College came to us to provide this service and they’ve put their faith in us to help their students which is brilliant." 

When discussing returning to College after many years away from education, Phil said: “It’s never too late to head back to the classroom. Even if you have other commitments. Hartlepool College of FE was massively helpful when it came to time management. We studied on a night, which meant I could still study whilst working full time, and they really tried to build my education around my other responsibilities." 

Jo said: “The College really supported me with work commitments, but Phil was also there for me. There were times when I didn’t understand some things and he would send me links and videos to help me out.  It wasn’t just the lecturers that help you, it’s other students as well and that’s something that makes this College so special.”

The Luminary Fitness Suite at Hartlepool College

Hartlepool College of Further Education offers numerous courses to students with no higher age limit meaning everyone is invited to learn. Jo said: “I questioned myself ‘am I too old to do this?’ and that’s something people think about education across the board. 

Phil continued: “The class was pretty mixed age groups too, so we weren’t just in a class with people younger than us. Our experience gave us a bit of advantage also. The fact we were a little older meant we could focus on work and exams." 

Jo commented: “What I would say is to absolutely go for it. Find your passion and if you have the drive to do it, then it will pay off. I personally found working full time, being a mother, trying to study and socialise quite difficult. 

However, looking back at where I was and where I am now with my own business, it’s well worth the hard work.” 

Phil said: “Being a parent and trying to revise was difficult and I’d have to take myself away from the family at times. That was probably the hardest part for me, juggling family life with everything but it was worth it. 

It was only a small amount of time that I had to sacrifice which means I can enjoy the rest going forward.”

Jo finalised: “At first it was really frightening and daunting but it’s down to hard work and with the support from everyone, for me, it’s worked out fab.” 

Jo and Phil both studied Level 2 in Fitness Instructing and a Level 3 BTEC Diploma in Sport but other courses are available including Level 3 and Level 4 Diplomas in Sports Massage. 

For more information on Sport and Fitness courses at Hartlepool College of Further Education >>
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