Busy mothers Natalie and Juliet Hodson, who are originally from Jarrow, completed a Leadership, Management and Organisation degree at Gateshead College despite both having demanding jobs and a family to look after.
Single mum Natalie, a contracts administrator at Washington-based ground investigation specialist Ian Farmer Associates, managed to juggle studying, full-time work and caring for her six-year-old son Thomas, who suffers from a rare bone disease.
Meanwhile, Juliet is a performance and information support officer at South Tyneside Council and in her spare time is busy developing a new business venture after coming up with a revolutionary bra design.
The pressures of combining work, study and family life took its toll at times and Natalie was even considering leaving the course last year.
But with the support of college staff she was persuaded to stay on – with first class results.
Natalie says: “I’m so glad that I decided to complete the degree, which has really helped me in my career.
“It has provided me with vital skills, such as people management and problem solving, which have enabled me to progress and take on more responsibilities within the company. It has also given me the confidence to prioritise tasks and deal with staff issues more effectively.
“It was tough to juggle study with home life; a lot of my time is spent taking Thomas to hospital appointments as his condition needs to be monitored on a regular basis.
“Having the support of Gateshead College staff gave me the strength to complete the degree and I really valued their input and encouragement.”
Prior to embarking on her degree, Natalie enrolled on a part-time NVQ Business and Administration Level Four programme at the college. Tutors quickly spotted her potential and encouraged her to enrol on a Foundation Degree in Business Management before progressing to a full degree at Gateshead College. The degree was awarded by Teesside University.
Juliet also completed the Foundation Degree in Business Management, which she says helped to sharpen her entrepreneurial instincts.
“I came up with the bra idea when I was asked to develop a business plan as part of my degree studies at Gateshead College,” said Juliet, who also has a degree in criminology and sociology from Northumbria University.
“It really helped me to focus on the commercial side of the venture, including how to market the product and the importance of looking after cash-flow.
“The degree has given me the confidence to take my business idea forward and develop it into a viable commercial venture.”
Gateshead College has a strong track record in helping students to find employment, progress in their existing job or launch their own business. Last year it was named as one of the UK’s first entrepreneurial colleges.
Helen Richardson, learning innovation manager at Gateshead College, said: “I am incredibly proud of Natalie and Juliet, who have both shown other people just what can be achieved with hard work, ability and good time management.
“Our degree programmes equip students with valuable skills that help them to progress in their careers.
“These programmes also support aspiring entrepreneurs who, like Juliet, want to develop and grow their business.”
Visit www.gateshead.ac.uk for information on courses.