Tom Jones, from Barry, served with 53 (Wales & Western) Signal Squadron before enlisting with the Royal Air Force. However, a damaged spine whilst training to become a RAF medic left Tom in a wheelchair, with a history of operations and deep depression.
His passion for public services led him to retrain as a lecturer in the subject. Now an award-winning teacher at Cardiff and Vale College, Tom champions experimental learning, often using body armour and army uniforms to get over a message.
"Many of my 14-16 age group students may not have seen a classroom for months so engaging them requires a different approach. The fact that I have gone through my own dark days helps me relate to my students.
"I spent my first year teacher training in a wheelchair, the second on crutches, and the third barely walking,” he said. "I also run a cadet programme and hope my students can relate to me."
"The knowledge, skill set and understanding I’ve gained in the past year of study has helped me immeasurably in my current role.
"The course has already helped me develop from a further education lecturer to a higher education lecturer, delivering degree-level courses.
"The opportunity for professional networking has been fantastic. We've had some great guest lecturers that have really opened my mind about management methods and theory.
"The course team understand the pressures of going back into education with a full-time career and family to manage as well. You’re given plenty of help to develop your literacy and self-study skills. I’ve had a lot of support from the Study Skills Team and the specialist librarians.
"Having a physical disability, I was initially concerned about parking and ease of access but the University has been brilliant. All of my needs have been met and they understand that everyone is different with their own needs and wants.
"A military background is a definite plus when it comes to university. At the end of the day, you’re studying for a degree or masters - you need to be motivated to pick up a laptop, examine a journal and form an academic argument - despite everyone else being in bed! You need the same drive, determination and focused approach to study as you did in service life.
"We can’t stay in the military forever so combining our previous knowledge and experiences with higher education makes us an extremely valuable asset to any organisation, be it in uniform or not!"
Find out more about our Armed Forces Scheme for current and former ex-service personnel.