A gardening entrepreneur who had always dreamt of a career in engineering has praised a scholarship scheme that is helping him reach his goal.
Paul Bland applied for the Ørsted scholarship through Furness College in Barrow and was over the moon to secure a place funding his HNC in Mechanical Engineering.
Now completing his second year, the former horticulture manager from Askam is hoping to apply to study a degree at the Channelside campus and has urged others to consider applying for the scholarship.
“If I was to give any advice to someone thinking of applying for the scholarship it would be just to take the chance and apply, “ he said. “I have to say when I applied I didn’t for one second think I would be either eligible or selected. Even once I received the email I still didn’t believe it and I had to reply to ask for confirmation.”
The 41-year-old heard about the opportunity through the local media and an article on the college website. The Ørsted scholarship is now in its third year at Furness College with £40,000 available to pay for another six students to complete higher education courses.
“I had very few alternatives to raise the capital necessary to continue my education and was grateful of the opportunity,” he said.
Progressing well on the course he said he is enjoying access to the college’s ‘amazing facilities’ which are a great introduction to the engineering industry as he studies alongside experienced engineers.
“The best thing about the course so far is realising the science behind items that have fascinated me for years and learning why things are the way they are and how they were conceived. Also breaking down academic principles that to most people are reasonably simple but I have struggled to grasp and now I am starting to understand.
“Furness College staff are also a real asset, I have always found them helpful enthusiastic and patient.
Paul left school at 16 and worked in the agricultural and horticultural industries before setting up his own gardening business, which he ran for five years. He then worked for a ground maintenance company before securing an operations manager role in a sales and manufacturing company.
When the company relocated to Wales two years ago he decided to pursue his passion for engineering.
“It’s what I have always wanted to do,” he said. “Now with this help of the Ørsted scholarship I can achieve my future career plans as I intend to carry on to a degree.”