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I didn’t change my career until I was 40 – it’s never too late!

Blackburne House empowers women through education allowing them to take control of there lives. We pride ourselves in creating opportunities for our students and support them to navigate new career paths. We believe it is never too late to learn or retrain.

We caught up with Cathy Burquest-Smith one of our Health & Wellbeing Department tutors. Cathy explained how she changed her life through education. Explaining that Blackburne House was the catalyst for igniting her love for teaching.

What was your life like before Blackburne House?

I was previously working as a personal assistant in a legal firm. I had done this job for a number of years working in different aspects of law.

What made you get back into education?

I was 38 years old and had become uninspired with working in the legal system. I wanted to do something more rewarding! I had always been very interested in complementary therapies and alternative medicine and after doing a lot of research for the right course and training I took a leap of faith. I studied on an18 month course in Manchester in complementary and alternative medicines after which I set myself up in business and was happy working as a complementary therapist but still felt I needed a further challenge.

All the students in health wellbeing and beauty dept. Got involved in providing therapies and a tombola and prizes to raise money for ‘wear it pink’ day at Blackburne House.

Why did you choose to study at Blackburne House and how did you hear about it?

A friend of mine recommended Blackburne House. So I rang the next day and enquired about the teaching qualifications and had an interview the same week.

What did you study and how did you find returning to education?

Initially, it was a bit scary and challenging, but I absolutely loved it. But my tutor was great and I loved coming in every week, the atmosphere of the class was great, I met some lovely people – the café was fantastic, of course – we would have our lunch in there every week!

Why did you choose that course?

I had been really inspired by the tutors I’d had during my career change. I loved the idea of being able to share my knowledge of complementary and alternative therapies with like-minded people. 

How did you get a job at Blackburne House?

When I graduated from Blackburne House I thought to myself I would love to work somewhere with the same values and ethos as Blackburne House. Anyway, I got a job with the Adult Learning Service for Liverpool City Council. A few years later I was asked to attend a CPD day in Carlisle College for Thai Yoga. I went along and while I was there I met a tutor from Blackburne House who was attending the same course. We got chatting and she asked me if I would do some internal verifying for the complementary therapy courses – 7 years later and the rest is history!

Students attending Birmingham Skills Show for health and wellbeing and beauty 2019-2020

What's it been like working at Blackburne House?

I really do love my job! I work with some amazing and inspiring people at the college.

Blackburne House has also given me the opportunity to progress in my career, I was promoted to Team Leader and Lead IQA and in 2018-19 I studied the Level 4 Diploma in Complementary Therapies and joined my fellow students in the Blackburne House graduation ceremony that year! So I’ve had two graduation ceremonies at the college.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

You know, I didn’t change my career until I was 40 – it’s never too late! I’ve met some inspiring tutors as both a student and working with my colleagues. If I can be a source of inspiration to others to encourage them on their journey to their chosen career then I can say it’s of the best decisions I ever made!

How do you support the students?

I think of what I needed as a student when I was training, not just the support to complete coursework but also the empathy and understanding that is needed from one adult to another, helping students to overcome barriers and hurdles that can occur as an adult coming back into education after a long time. I am very passionate about what I teach and I would like to think I inspire and motivate my students to the best of my ability– but you know the best people to answer this question is my students!

Took the students to Radio Merseyside to take part in their health and wellbeing day. The students provided therapies to their staff.



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