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Schools Alumni Week: Aidan Waples

As part of Future First's #SchoolsAlumniWeek, we're interviewing five former Creative Education Trust students to raise awareness of the importance of role models in schools. 

Aidan, pictured above far right, attended Wrenn School until 2014. He studied at the University of Lincoln, gaining a First Class Honours in Media Production and a Postgraduate Diploma in Studies in Media and Culture. Throughout sixth form and university, Aidan worked for the retail store Next. He stayed on after university through a Trainee Scheme at Next’s Head Office and was promoted to Assistant Merchandiser. However, the 2020 lockdown led to a career change. Age 24, Aidan accepted his current role with the Prison Service as a Performance and Assurance Manager.

Aidan signed up to the Future First hub, finding opportunities with Wrenn and the wider Creative Education Trust network where he’s shared his experience at careers and employability events.

What do you remember about your time at school?
“I wouldn’t say my time at school was easy, but the support was there when I needed it. The teachers who would go out of their way to help is always a positive memory.

The things that stand out to me were being a year rep on the school council in my early years, taking part in an ‘Apprentice’ style competition with other local schools with the aim of reducing anti-social behaviour, chairing the student interview panel for a Deputy Headteacher, being a videographer for school events, volunteering to support a GCSE ICT class, and taking part in a 6-week film project."

Did you know what you wanted to do after school?
“I never had a set plan. Ever since I was young, I wanted to be a teacher. It was only the transition into sixth form when I decided to go to university, and to study media. The idea of teaching has always been in the back of my mind."

Aidan graduating from the University of Lincoln

What was your experience like at university?
“University was a great experience and helped shape me as a person. It felt like home straight away. I was out of my comfort zone meeting new people; I was introduced to so many new things in media; I embraced the social life and weekly walks to the Cathedral. Budgeting was difficult and I had a part-time job, which meant I did not have a free day for most of my early years. But it was so worth it as it later led to my first full-time job”.

What has been your highlight since leaving school? 
“It sounds cliché but getting to where I am today. I was the first person in my family to get A-Levels, the first to go to university, the first of my siblings not to move back home, and I became a manager in the Civil Service in my early 20s.”

What motivated your career change into the Prison Service? What have been the highlights and challenges of the role?
“Lockdown and working from home were taking its toll. I was looking into Civil Service jobs for a friend and came across a role that piqued my interest and matched my experience and abilities. The challenge (other than walking through a prison for the first time) was shifting my thought processes from the private sector where the aim is to make money, to the public sector where everything is people centred.

The biggest highlight for me was receiving a ’Thank You’ from a prisoner who had approached me with a financial query. I talked him through his transactions for about half an hour, explaining how each element worked and what it meant. At the end of the conversation, he shook my hand and thanked me, which was affirmation that my work has an impact, even if only small.”

Is there any advice you’d give to anyone considering a similar career?
The Civil Service is a great organisation to work in. You get a sense of doing something for the common good and it’s so vast that there is a job to suit everyone.

The Prison Service is not at all like you see on TV! People working in prisons take on a plethora of responsibilities. You don’t need any formal qualifications to join - I had no previous experience in the sector and was employed straight into a management position.” 

A smiling Aidan looks directly at the camera
Aidan supporting the Creative Education Trust Sixth Form Employability Skills Day in January 2023

What motivated you to stay involved with Wrenn and CET?
“I want to give students opportunities I may not have had at school. Working in the Prison Service, I can offer insight into a career that is often not thought of and can provide advice on the civil service recruitment process."

What’s been your biggest takeaway so far?
“There has been a lot of change. It is not a journey I would call conventional: from a media degree, to being a fashion merchandiser, to working in a prison. It is the skills I have learned in each of these that has taken me to the next stage. Whilst change is scary, it should be embraced. When I moved into the prison service, I wrote on my social media “Even in the midst of a global pandemic, exciting opportunities can be found - be brave, be bold, and just go for it!” 3 years on, I still stand by this!”

We look forward to working with Aidan on future alumni events!

If you're a Creative Education Trust alum, and you're interested in getting involved, our next virtual network event will be Tuesday 23 May 6-7.30pm. Our events are a chance to meet other alumni, hear from a guest speaker, share ideas for the network, and find out about upcoming opportunities. Please email for all the details.