Call goes out for Cumbria’s mature learners to step forward and inspire others

Future First has teamed up with local education partnership Hello Future to let Cumbrians know it’s never too late to learn something new.

Future First specialises in using the power of relatable role models to inspire others. By sharing people’s stories about their career journeys, they want to encourage local people to consider enrolling on courses even if they left school and went straight into work.

Akeem-Chavez Williams, Future First’s Alumni Programme Manager said: “We’d really love to hear from people with a connection to Cumbria who returned to education to give their careers a boost after initially going into work straight from school.

“Lots of us don’t get on with formal education at school but find the experience is so much better when we return in later life. Not only can it open exciting new career opportunities but it can also inspire us in ways we never thought possible.

“If this sounds like you, we’d love to hear from you so please get in touch at and help someone else to give their future prospects a boost.”

Mark Dickinson from Hello Future added: “It’s very easy to be working in a job that doesn’t feel right but to think you don’t have the qualifications to go on and try something you would really love to do.

“We want to show people that it’s never too late to learn something new and the experience can be completely different from what you remember about school.

“Hearing from people who have taken this route before and never looked back can really make a difference, so we’d love people to get in touch if they’ve got a story like this that could transform someone else’s future.”

If you’ve got a story about how returning to education changed your life and career in the way it did for Stuart (see below) please contact

Stuart left Netherhall School in Cumbria at 16 and joined the Royal Marines. He served for the next five years before deciding to do something new.

He joined a government scheme to give him the basic skills in bricklaying and in 1989 worked on the rebuilding of East Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

It was a tough life being a builder, no real financial security and no area for growth.

Stuart says: “There is a real ceiling level in terms of how much you can earn laying bricks and it all just equates to how many bricks you can lay in a day.”

With encouragement from his wife, Stuart applied to study at Northumbria University at 27.

“I had no perception that it was possible that someone like me could go to university, no one in my family had ever been to university.”

Stuart was offered a position to study for a Building Surveying degree that would make him a chartered building surveyor.

Juggling a job and looking after a young son was difficult and Stuart’s background gave him a “natural inferiority complex”. He was also worried that it wasn’t really something he could do, but Stuart put his head down and worked hard.

“I looked at it as almost a chance to get out of what I was doing,” he says. “To escape to something else and what I saw as a better life.”

Stuart realised he was more academic than he thought he was and that he had a real passion for learning. He finished his degree top of the year with first class honours.

After graduating Stuart worked for about 10 years as a “chartered building surveyor working on existing buildings, castles, mansions, churches working out what was wrong with these buildings and designing repairs and extensions”.

He then went on to become a lecturer at his old university before setting up his own building surveying business in Cumbria and he now works at Sellafield in the nuclear industry.

Stuart says returning to university “just opened so many doors for me”.

“You come across things that you never came across in your previous life.”