Catherine admits to struggling with her CSE’s at her secondary school in Blackburn. Her favourite subjects – Home Ec and Environmental Science – got her through the school years and onto a catering course at her local Technical College. From here she built a career as a chef, working with reputable establishments like the Gatwick Hilton. She describes herself as someone who learnt practically rather than academically, a style perfectly suited to the catering industry.
At 23 and on a bit of a whim, Catherine and a friend booked a Europe wide InterRail ticket and took an opportunity to explore anywhere in Europe for just £160. After a month of travelling around southern Europe they returned home. But the bug had taken hold and Catherine was soon on her way again; this time further afield to Thailand, Indonesia and Australia.
This experience began a chain of events that would eventually lead Catherine to York Maker Hub. Travelling brought her into contact with different kinds of people, many of them of students. Catherine knew that her reading wasn’t as good as it should be and this had got in the way of her studies at school.
I could read ok, it was good comprehension that was lacking. I began working my way through the newspapers – from the red tops to the broadsheets. I wanted to be capable of more.
On her return Catherine took a casual chef position with an agency and applied to the local Access to Business course. Access courses provide students with the equivalent of three A-Levels and an opportunity to move on to degree studies. On completing the year successfully she was determined to keep going and began visiting universities. In the end she chose a BA Hons in International Business Studies at the University of Central Lancashire. Catherine got a good feel for the place during her visit and felt they were set up well for mature students. It was during Freshers Week that she met her husband and now business partner Dan.Spurred on by her experiences Catherine continued to postgrad education with an MSc at Manchester Metropolitan University. It was at this point that Catherine was given the answer to why she sometimes found academic studies harder than her peers.
Two months into my studies they determined that I was dyslexic. The university supplied me with a lot of support technology through my Masters and it really helped. I still use some of it, software like Read Write and Mind Mapping.
So how did all of this lead to Catherine and Dan setting up their own business? With an MSc in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, Catherine went on to work for Manchester Council. First as a Park Warden, working alongside the community to manage open spaces for local people – then in Parks Development, playing a part in the management of 1000 hectares of green space around the Irk River Valley. By this time the couple were having their second child and Catherine wanted to spend more time with the family. She took voluntary redundancy as Dan was offered a position in York and they relocated.
We were lucky that his work as a Chartered Software Engineer meant that I could stay at home if I wanted to. Eventually I started a two-year contract working with The Older Citizens Advocacy Service to improve their long-term sustainability. Then we began talking about starting our own business. Dan was still in full-time employment and it needed to be manageable around the children. Our eldest was showing an interest in computers and tech but there wasn’t anywhere to go. At the same time Dan was playing around with new technology at home, like the Raspberry Pi.
With further research Catherine and Dan found that there are few opportunities for young people to learn, play and develop through computer technology. This realisation led to the idea of an out of school hub – York Maker Hub was born. Whilst Catherine concentrates on building links with local schools, community groups and families; Dan works behind the scenes to make sure that the children get access to the best and most exciting technology available. After successfully running their first out of school club over the 2016 summer holidays York Maker Hub are now looking towards autumn/winter, with half term plans for both October and February half term. There are also plans afoot for an after school coding hub between the term breaks.
The couple work hard to make York Maker Hub accessible to as many young people as possible. Two of the nearby schools have funded students through the Pupil Premium scheme and the couple managed to secure some spaces through SHINE funding during the summer. They also ensure that the sessions are open to children with a variety of educational needs and levels of development.
My dyslexia gives me the ability to relate to children who are struggling. The hub gives children the opportunity to develop their computer skills along with children who they might not normally get to mix with. Socialising is a part of it but we don’t force it. We want them to enjoy being productive in the sessions without pressure. It’s not just for the kids who can afford it or are doing well academically. These skills are important for future learning and career development. Everyone should have the chance to take part.
If you would like to book a place on the October or February half term hubs please contact Catherine on 07821 841040. Alternatively you can check out the York Maker Hub website and follow their work on Twitter and Facebook.