Case studies Owen, the worker
Owen, the worker
Owen, the worker

Owen, the worker (6)

Demographic and biographical Characteristics

Owen is an18 yr old boy, living at home but hoping to go to university this year and live on campus. He is currently waiting for his A-level results. He has a wide circle of friends and enjoys a good social life. He is a bit of a computer geek and spends a lot of time on-line socializing, working and playing games. He works every Sunday washing up in a local pub. He is very good natured and easy going.


Educational and transitional pathways:  

Owen is looking forward to going to university to do a 5 yr Masters degree in Civil Engineering in U.Swansea He is looking forward to living away from home, looking forward to meeting new friends and the social life at university and looking forward to studying engineering which he has wanted to do for as long as he can remember. He has decided to live on campus. He does not seem to be anxious about anything and is reasonably confident about his exams.

Motivations and Strategies:

Owen’s motivation is simply that he wants to be a civil engineer and cannot remember a time in his life when he has been interested in going anything else. He says as a small child he was always fascinated by heavy machines, tunnels, building sites etc and was always building things, damming streams and digging holes. He expresses his ambitions not in terms of jobs or career but in concrete terms

“One day I want to build a bridge more beautiful than the Millau bridge.”

“Long term I want to do intermediate technology stuff, particularly irrigation or delta drainage”

His strategy is to follow the system and conform. He did not want to do an apprenticeship because he wanted to enjoy the social life at university without having to have a job as well. At school he works reasonably hard and is quite efficient – work, whether it is school work or other tasks, are to be done and got out of the way as soon as possible. He never gets stressed and is always calm and relaxed.

He is not too bothered about long term employment prospects because civil engineering is a skills shortage area and one of his criteria when researching which university he wanted to apply for was graduate employment figures which for the course he has applied for is over 95%.

Ad hoc learning scenarios

Owen is always fascinated finding out how things work and has, since he was very young, spent a lot of his time taking things apart – stripping down cars, taking bits of electrical equipment to pieces etc.

He also takes every opportunity to go and see things that interest him, almost all of them related to construction or engineering. A holiday trip to London was not about seeing the tourist sights but a whole day spent looking at a construction site where they were building an extension to an underground line.  The highlight of another holiday in France was a morning at the Sky bridge.

He also spends a lot of time with his friends organizing ‘LAN parties’ where groups of them gather in a house, challenge each other to online games, organize leagues and knock out competitions, make contact with other groups in other countries and have a joint project to complete – usually something like building a computer from components they all donate to give to another child in the school that cannot afford one.

His parents do not have a television, which he says he does not miss having, but he reads a lot and belongs to a lot of on-line communities – mainly to do with gaming and IT issues.

He did two periods of work experience, which he said he found interesting, but not directly related to his chosen career.

Owen’s father is a surveyor and ever since he was a young child, Owen used to love going on site with him and apparently understood some quite technical concepts when he was very young.

Support Services used

Owen made full use of the school careers teacher and the careers service but he was very clear about what he wanted to do so did not find them that useful although he quite enjoyed the careers lessons because they were fun.

He spent a lot of time researching which university he wanted to go to but oddly enough, did not use much on line material. He said the most useful information was a supplement published every year by a national newspaper giving a breakdown of every university in the UK. From this he systematically analysed every university that had a civil engineering department, awarded his own star system  based on published student satisfaction ratings, academic achievement, graduate employment figures, location, facilities etc. He then shortlisted these, went to the open days at each university and then applied to four.

He also talked to several people who had been to his first and second choice universities and asked what they had thought of them.

He also said that his sixth form  (final year) tutor had been really excellent

“He just knows everything about universities and he’ll do anything for you – like I mentioned doing a degree where I get a year out in industry and he went through all the pluses and minuses and got his brother to phone me because he had done a sandwhich degree in engineering and then he gave me a list of all the civ.eng. departments where I could do this. Mr Price is brilliant.”

Learning type

Insatiable curiosity – Owen just has to know how things work and is fascinated by materials, structures, mechanical devices.

Conceptual / abstract learning - Owen does not much enjoy the practical work he has to do in school …

“some times it can be fun but it wastes a lot of time when you could just look it up or work it out in your head”

…but much prefers ideas, concepts and abstractions. His favourite subject was pure maths “because there is no practical work” He complained that too many subjects were  He says

“when I admire a bridge I am  always wondering things like how much weight would be n the back of a crane to support the cantilever when they put the sections in. I only want to design the things – I don’t want to build them!”

holistic learning / learning for the sake of it – his academic and career interests, his hobbies and his interests are all integrated. He is very enthusiastic about ‘”finding out stuff” and does not really think of it as studying. He is quite happy to read a maths text book as he would read a novel and will spend hours setting himself maths problems …

“…for fun, I just can’t help it, if I walk up a flight of stairs, especially ones I walk up regularly, I have to count them , then the next time I think if there was one less, what would the angle be to reach the same height and how wide would the treads be.  Sometimes when I am in the shower, I turn the water pressure up and down and try and calculate the area of the circle on the shower base if I  move the shower head up and down.”

Information and Communication Technologies

Owen lives on his PDA and his computer and uses a lot of social networking sites, bulletin boards and forums. He gains most of his technical information from the web but also thinks his teachers are very good.  He is an active member of a number of on-line communities. He and his friends spend a lot of time sharing files and chatting on skype. He looked at a lot of individual university websites but only after he had done the initial shortlisting using paper media. He also found several websites related to “Going to University” which he said were quite good.