The Bishop of Durham congratulated nearly 100 higher education students for their success at Bishop Auckland College’s showcase graduation ceremony at Durham Cathedral last night.

The Right Revd Paul Butler led praise for the graduates who have received their scrolls after years of study in subjects ranging from engineering and business to teaching, counselling, sport, healthcare, music and performing arts.

For many of the graduates this year, their higher education journey has proved to be a life-changing experience.

Claire Lowes is one such example, having gone from employee to employer. The 42-year-old, from Bishop Auckland, enrolled on the two year Higher National Diploma in Business and Management after her director highlighted professional development during an annual appraisal at work.

But the Level 5 programme gave her so much confidence that in March this year she decided to leave her role as an operations manager for a door set manufacturer in Thornaby to jointly launch her own company.

Claire, whose three children are all grown up, is now the proud joint owner and director of Vigor Doors Ltd. She said: “The course allowed me to apply my new found knowledge to my role as operations manager and eventually gave me the confidence to start my own business with my
business partner Gareth Davies.

“We started the business in March 2019 manufacturing fire door sets for the residential and commercial sector. We managed to do this through previous work knowledge and now with the help of my HND course, I know much more about the practical requirements of business start-up.

“Thanks to Bishop Auckland College I can now give people the opportunity of employment in the North-East and I have a higher education qualification to back it up with.”

Christopher Bennett, 33, went back to the classroom after 15 years when professional development was also identified as a priority by his employer Thorn Lighting. And the HNC in Manufacturing Engineering has played a key role in his subsequent promotion from line leader to production supervisor.

The father-of-one, from Newton Aycliffe, said: “Since I started the HNC I have taken on a new role, and the course has certainly helped me get the promotion. When I applied for the job I had to do a 30-minute presentation, largely on manufacturing principles and business improvement techniques. So what I had learned helped a lot. Next year I plan to do my HND.”

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For Steve Johnson, 40, of Bishop Auckland, higher education is also leading to a huge, positive change in his life. The former self-employed electrical inspector is turning his passion for music into a new full time occupation.

The college was recommended to the married father-of-two by a fellow band member in symphonic North-East rock band Winter In Eden. Steve is now progressing to complete his music degree at the University of Sunderland before doing teacher training.

He said: “My aim is to teach keyboard, music technology, offer recording and other related services in the local community as well as continuing to write and perform for Winter In Eden and for the multi-media industry.

“I will remember my experience at Bishop Auckland College fondly. Although it has been challenging, it has equally been rewarding. The approachable staff were always keen to help and the students in the music and performing arts departments have been a pleasure to work with.”

Addressing last night’s ceremony, Principal and Chief Executive of Bishop Auckland College Natalie Davison-Terranova praised HE staff for their dedication and told the graduates: “I cannot emphasise enough how you must all feel very proud of your achievements; you must revel in the knowledge that you have already achieved immense success and that you will, undoubtedly, go on to achieve much more in the future.

“Along with the Governors and staff of Bishop Auckland College, I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to each and every one of you and my very best wishes for your future success.”

The college had well over 200 HE students this year enrolled on a wide range of subjects including HNC/Ds in engineering, HNDs in art & design, business, music, performing arts and sport, and Higher Apprenticeships in business and management. It also runs Foundation Degrees in education, health and counselling and the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (Cert. Ed.) validated by the University of Sunderland.

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