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73-year-old goes back to the books

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Students who have completed a part-time course at South Eastern Regional College (SERC) have spoken of how their courses have been time and money well spent.

HARD work and dedication has paid off for 73-year-old Belfast man Ronald Paterson who returned to education nearly 60 years after leaving school. And with school leavers across the province receiving their A level and GCSE results soon, Ronald is urging others to consider their local Further Education College as a first option.

73-year-old Ronald had been out of education for 58 years when he enrolled at South Eastern Regional College (SERC) to study the HNC construction and built environment course before progressing to the HND programme. Ronald said that although he was nervous about returning to education he would strongly encourage others to do the same.

Completing 16 modules over five years, Ronald successfully completed the course and achieved 14 distinctions, a pass and a merit.

Ronald, a former pupil of Ashfield Boys High School explained “I was nervous about returning to education, but I can safely say it was the best thing I have ever done. Everyone was so friendly and the smaller class sizes suited me. My advice to others is to speak to the tutors and careers staff about their options.”

The father of two had been focusing on bringing up his two children and his career, however he decided it was time to hit the books and signed up to an HND construction and the built environment course at SERC’s Downpatrick Campus. Ronald’s career has included various supervisory construction posts including general foreman, site joiner, running his own construction business and most recently clerk of works where he completed an online foundation degree with the Institute of the Clerk of Works through The University of Wolverhampton.

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Ronald said “I wanted to do something which I was interested in and which would challenge me. As a joiner, construction is something I’ve always enjoyed. I enrolled to the HND course at SERC to pursue this new ambition and gain a recognised qualification.

“Thanks to SERC I have made new friends and gained a lot more self-confidence, after all I now have a qualification which is the equivalent to year two of a degree programme. I would definitely recommend SERC as a place to study to anyone thinking of returning to education.”

Ronalds tutor Caylan Ellesmere, said: “Ronald proves that it is never too late to go back to education. We have many mature students who are returning for a variety of reasons from retraining or coming back to get the qualifications they didn’t get when they were younger.

“And that is the beauty of having your local college on your doorstep. Ronald is a great role model and we would encourage everyone to consider education. Ronald is proving that learning is lifelong and as a result is ready to put on a gown and walk across the stage. After all, it’s never too late to accomplish your goals.”

For vocational courses, there is a 25 per cent discount for those aged 60 or over at time of enrolment. There is also a 50 per cent discount for those receiving guaranteed pension credit, rate relief, working tax credit, income-related employment and support allowance, income support and income-based jobseeker’s allowance and universal credit, this applies to vocational courses only.

Applications for courses starting in September are now open.

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