From a young age, Stuart Jackson was into motorbikes. “That gave me a passion for all things mechanical,” he says, so a career in mechanical engineering was an obvious choice.
After high school and a gap year working as a supermarket duty manager, Stuart went to university to study engineering but after a year, he decided it wasn’t for him. “I didn’t enjoy it.”
Stuart returned to the workforce, working for Ashby Concrete and participating in its parent company’s trainee management programme. However, his desire to study hadn’t gone away.
“I decided it was time to test myself with more detailed, challenging maths-related tasks as I’d enjoyed that at high school,” he says.
He chose to study engineering again, but this time at Ara, after a family friend recommended the Bachelor of Engineering Technology. “Ara’s degree was only three years, which suited me because I wanted to get back into the workforce as soon as possible.”
Stuart discovered a big contrast between university and Ara. “After university, Ara was a breath of fresh air in terms of the tutor’s engagement with students and the more intimate learning environment. The tutors were very honest, down-to-earth and incredibly bright. Being able to learn so closely from them was fantastic.”
Stuart says a go-cart project, several interesting field trips and the practical approach to problem solving were among highlights of the course.
Four years on from graduating, Stuart is now general manager for Motovated Design & Analysis, a mechanical design consultancy established in 1999. He started there as a mechanical designer.
“The business partner of Motovated’s founder gave a talk at Ara which really caught my attention. I sent him my CV but they weren’t hiring then. I waited eight months and got in touch again and the timing just worked. They were impressed that I’d tried again and they valued my keenness and loyalty over my lack of experience at the time.”
Stuart says one of the things that’s helped him advance in the company is the fact that he’s kept every course note, exam paper, hand-out and text book from his time at Ara.
“Whenever a mechanical problem comes across my desk, I remember that I covered that subject at Ara so I hunt through all of my notes to find what I need. It’s made me quite successful here as I have the ability to break down complex real-world problems into smaller, solvable blocks.”
Stuart plans to stay at Motovated for the foreseeable future, but one day he’d like to start his own business and maybe even return to Ara to teach.