Eight years ago husband and wife team Thomas and Fiona decided to make a big change. Working minimum wage jobs while raising their two young children, they were looking for a new opportunity, so both enrolled on an NC in Computing at our Greenock campus, making the first steps towards a better future for themselves and their family.

Fiona knew balancing education and family life wouldn’t be easy, especially with both of them studying, but putting it off just made it harder for them and their children.

“I thought we’d be putting it off forever; but there was always going to be something keeping us busy, so we just went for it. Of course it was a scary prospect, both of us studying at the same time as raising kids meant it would be hard, and financially it was risky.”

Going back to education after a break can be daunting, especially for a couple studying at the same time, with two young children, but Thomas remembers that although it was a lot of work, they had a lot of support.

“We made it work, but not without help. We were living in Rothesay, which meant taking a boat and a bus to College, but our parents helped, and we made full use of the College’s Childcare facilities. Our lecturers were great as well, they did so much to help us reach our potential, all through our NC, HNC, and HND. We’re so grateful to everyone at the College – we couldn’t have done this without their support.

“We’ve kept in touch with the College since leaving. Following my HND placement in the College’s Technical Support Team, I worked there part-time while at university. I was able to put what I’d learned into practice and without a doubt this helped when it came to looking for full-time work.”

Fiona and Thomas left the College with HND certificates, Fiona in Computer Games Development, and Thomas in Technical Support. In their final year at the College Fiona won our Student of the Year award, while Thomas was the recipient of the Dean Maltman Memorial Award – a further sign, as if any were needed, of their dedication and success.

Thomas remembers that not only were the awards a great conclusion to their time at the College, but that his carried particular personal significance too.

“It was a real honour to have been chosen for the Dean Maltman Memorial Award. Dean was a former student of the College who passed away in 2010, but he was also a friend. Dean came from Rothesay too, and our families have known each other for years. It really meant something to receive the award named for him.”

Both Thomas and Fiona went onto study at the University of the West of Scotland, where they received First Class Honours Degrees. For lecturer Fiona Rushton, it shows just what you can achieve with a HND and a bit of hard work.

Both Fiona and Thomas are fantastic role models for our current generation of students. They have developed vocational skills and capitalised on the educational opportunities available through their enthusiasm for the subject area and academic commitment. I’m delighted they have done so well.

Fiona and Thomas now live in Port Glasgow with their two children. Fiona is currently studying for her Masters at UWS in Paisley, while Thomas works with HP in Erskine.

“I’m now studying for a Masters in Advanced Computer Systems Development at UWS, and Thomas has a great job working with HP in Erskine. I’ve thought about doing a PhD, but I’d really like to start working. There are so many exciting opportunities available in Computing, even locally, with more opening up all the time. We decided to study Computing because we knew it would give us great career prospects, and I can’t wait to make the most of them.”

“Everything we’ve studied has been interesting and rewarding. It won’t be too long before our son and daughter are thinking about further education, and I’ll definitely encourage them to consider Computing. The courses at the College provide a wide-range of experience, and prepare you for great careers in so many areas. It’s a brilliant option for anyone; I was worried I’d find it too difficult, but with support from lecturers, all you need is hard work and dedication.”

Going to college has really proved beneficial; it’s allowing us to pursue careers that, otherwise, would never have been possible. We took a chance, and it’s been hard work, but I’m so happy we did.