College Engineering Students Work with Local Shopping Centre on Their 30th Birthday Celebrations.

A KEYRING initiative is opening doors to a brighter future for three mature students who see engineering as the next step in their lives.

Darlington College engineering students Lucy Archer and Stacey Harrer, of Darlington, and Steph Cooper, of Aiskew, Bedale, have been working on keyring designs to mark the 30th anniversary of the opening of the town’s Cornmill Centre.

Lucy and Stacey had their joint entry selected as the winner which was 3D printed and handed to Cornmill shoppers, with the help of Steph.

For all three the L3 technical extended diploma has opened up a whole new world of opportunities with Steph learning to become a steam engine driver on the Wensleydale Railway, Lucy returning to the classroom after bring up her disabled son and Stacey finding a new lifestyle that complements her role as mother to adopted twin daughters.

Lucy said: “For the past 10 years I have been a fulltime carer for my disabled son but now he is 18 I can focus on engineering. I love to challenge my brain as well as do something practical and I like to know how things work. I’m going to do the second year of the course and feel there are plenty of engineering opportunities locally and across Teesside for me.”

Stacey, who is interested in working in renewable energy, added: “I took time out to bring up my girls and was a stay at home mum. Now they are attending secondary school I thought about doing something in automotive until I spoke with the lecturers in engineering and wanted to get involved. It’s been a challenge but I feel really proud of what I have achieved. It’s about time women started to put their stamp on engineering and I’m happy to be a champion in this way.”

Steph said: “I was also looking for a challenge and began volunteering with Wensleydale Railway line after a successful placement there with college. I’m currently rebuilding a steam engine, which is great working on a piece of history, and learning how to drive one.”

Lecturer Tom Cantle said having mature female students on the course had transformed the dynamic.

“The mums are a calming influence on the young men on the course and bring a high degree of speed and creativity,” he said.

Senior Lecturer John McCallum added: “They do approach things differently compared to men and come up with some really good ideas. It’s great to see such an interest in engineering among women who realise it is no longer dirty, noisy or oily; those days have gone. They are a really positive influence in the classroom. There is so much more funding out there at the moment for adults and it is great that the college is able to offer more opportunities.”

Cornmill centre manager Susan Young said: “This has been a fantastic project and we all really enjoyed the whole process, from briefing the students to judging the final designs. Watching the keyrings being produced by the 3D present printer was amazing. We have a long history of working with the college which is a fantastic resource for the town.”


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