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The Sky's the limit for Catherine



Catherine a former RAF engineer and our Overall Student of the Year 2018 is aiming for the skies after returning to the classroom to qualify as an aerospace engineer. Mother-of-one Catherine Lollis, 26, toured the world while working with the air force, visiting Italy, Gibraltar, Spain and the United States, before taking a break to enjoy parenthood. She has since settled back in the North-East, choosing to spend time in her hometown of Darlington as she studies to progress her career on her return to work.

She said: "I joined the RAF straight from school and stayed in for four years. I gained a huge amount of experience in flight line servicing, including things such as refuelling, marshalling and servicing on the fast jets including the Tornado. I left to have children and moved home. I’ve only got my GCSEs and I realised I needed to do something to move my career forward. I’ve got the work experience, but not the qualifications that go with it.”

This is the Life - Catherine Lollis - Aerospace Engineer

After returning home, Ms Lollis decided to continue learning at the Hartlepool College of Further Education, studying aerospace engineering. The mother to five-year-old Lydia added: “I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do at the beginning, but I knew I had to go to college, so I could earn more than the minimum wage. It was the perfect time to head back to education as my daughter had just turned three. She’s five-years-old now and it’s not too challenging juggling her and my studies with her being at school.”

She said: “I didn’t really like education back then and that’s why I joined the RAF. I had a cousin who was in the forces at the time and I thought it was a great choice. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve always liked hands-on work and figuring out how things function. If I’d stayed in the RAF, I would have been a mechanical engineer on the aircraft which is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

The Darlington mother planned on rejoining the RAF after having her daughter but realised the long shifts and relocation would have proved too difficult. However, with her determination to learn, Ms Lollis hopes to encourage other would-be mature students to continue learning, no matter their current situation, and was awarded for her hard work and determination back in November scooping the prestigious Overall Student of the Year Award here at Hartlepool College.

She said: “Coming back as a mature student, especially if you’ve got kids, can be daunting. There’s a lot to organise including funding, travel and childminding but the student support at the college are brilliant. They’ll point you in the right direction and help in any way they can. Once you get started into a routine it’s great and it really is just the first step in your new journey.”

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