Life-changing learning

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How Middlesbrough College courses could be lifesavers…

Life-changing learning is available at Middlesbrough College across a range of courses – and in the case of former joiner Sean Griffiths it’s propelled him into a lifesaving career.

The 31-year-old paramedic from Billingham now saves lives for a living, and has told others that it’s not too late to go back to the classroom and make big career changes.

Several years ago, as an apprentice joiner working on building sites, Sean found himself bored and unfulfilled and was looking for a change.

But without academic qualifications he worried his options were limited.

Sean, who has just bought his first house, explained: “I’d always fancied working in the health sector but people I know who’d done that were at A* level in school, and I wasn’t.

“I struggled with science at school and thought that might stop me, but I went to an open day at Middlesbrough College and discovered there was a way.

“Now I’m in a new career and it’s changed my life.”

Sean studied an Access to Health course at Middlesbrough College which prepared him for a degree at Teesside University, and having graduated last year he joined the North East Ambulance Service.

Now he works demanding shifts as a paramedic – responding to emergencies across Teesside.

He added: “I love my job now. As you’d expect, it’s physically and mentally challenging as I’m responding to stressful situations all the time.

“I have to be prepared to face one issue, deal with it, and then race on to the next with a smile on my face.

“The satisfaction is immense though. A lot of people I help find themselves in really worrying circumstances and they tell me that just seeing my uniform makes them feel safer.”

Sean is now encouraging others who feel unfulfilled at work to reconsider their options, no matter what their background.

He said: “Before I started I didn’t realise the options that are available.

“I couldn’t afford to give up work so I studied the Access course on top of my day job.

“It was hard as it’s the equivalent of two years of A Level study in nine months, but the tutors were flexible and the course really prepared me for university.

“What’s even better, the course fees are refunded if you complete a degree programme afterwards.

“Anyone who wants to make a change in their life should think about it.”

Meanwhile, fitness fanatic Mark Higgins chose a part-time course at Middlesbrough College to help his career.

The 37-year-old former amateur boxer had already been running his personal training business for more than six years when he realised the market was becoming more competitive.

Mark explained: “There were a lot of people doing personal training and I recognised I needed another string to my bow – something to help me stand out from the crowd.

“That’s when someone recommended Ivan Whitfield at Middlesbrough College, so I signed up to the VTCT massage course – and it really opened my eyes to new techniques.”

Studying part-time while running his business, dad-of-two Mark found balancing family life, work and college was easy.

He added: “When I first started I was nervous about managing everything, but I quickly realised I could make it work for me.

“I really enjoyed going in to college and it gave me the confidence to go on and study a Level 4 Sports Massage Therapy course.”

Middlesbrough College offers a range of courses that can help you make life-changing moves. For more information, call Course Information on 01642 333333 or email


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