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Long-serving staff share experiences as college launches recruitment drive

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  • News date: Jun '22
  • News author: Liam Waite

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STAFF with more than a century of combined years of service at a west Cumbria college have shared their experiences as it enters an ambitious period of expansion.

Lakes College has been at the heart of its community since 2001 and its campus at Lillyhall has transformed since then with the additions of the Construction Skills Centre, National College for Nuclear and Civil Engineering Training Centre.

And a number of staff have been at the college since it was spread across three sites at Workington, Whitehaven and Lillyhall as West Cumbria College.

Their experiences range from lecturing and learner support to data, quality and facilities, and all have had their own reasons for spending more than two decades at Lakes College.

They have shared their memories of the college as it launches a recruitment drive, with a Staff Recruitment Open Day to be held on Saturday, June 11 to showcase the facilities, career opportunities and current vacancies.

Learner support manager Irene Farragher has worked at the college for more than 25 years after joining as a part-time hairdressing tutor.

She said: “It’s seeing the learners’ achievements that has kept me at Lakes College.

“That, and knowing that you have been able to have an impact in helping them to get to where they want to be.

“I see kids whose parents I taught and the fact that a lot of them remember you gives you that feeling of satisfaction that you have played at least small part in their life.”

Progress and welfare coach Lorraine Roberts started in November 1997, teaching three hours each Friday, and progressed as a tutor and course leader before moving to a student mentor role in 2014.

Lorraine said the feeling that she had achieved a lot, supported thousands of people and ‘made a difference’ was what had kept her at the college for more than 24 years.

Facilities supervisor Andrew Sisson has been at the college since 1994, starting in a temporary role which was expected to be a short-term arrangement but still in post 28 years later.

He said: “The reason I’ve been here this long is because you’re not doing the same thing; every day is different.

“I meet a lot of people, both internally and externally, so it’s a very social job and I’ve managed to build up good relationships with contractors over the years.

“I’m always here for the students because they are why we are here, at the end of the day.

“What has made it even better is that I’ve always worked in a good team.”

Mark Birschel first joined the college as a lecturer in 1994 at West Cumbria College, progressing into a curriculum manager role then head of department positions before transitioning to working in quality in the mid-2000s.

Since 2014 Mark has been the college’s quality manager.

“I like to do something different and there is no way you can get bored here,” he said.

“It’s the variety; every day is different.

“I think it’s a nice place to work, the people and culture is nice.

“There are people in curriculum operations leader roles that were students here.

“I’ve seen a lot of people develop and come up through the ranks.”

Data services manager Val Pallister started with the college in 1995 on a temporary contract and said the flexibility and support from colleagues had ‘encouraged me to stay and further my career’.

For more information about the Staff Recruitment Open Day, which takes place between 10am and 1pm, click here.

To see current vacancies, visit