Julie has gone to pots since leaving bank job
13 June 2012
It could be said that Julie Muir has gone to pots since arriving at Oatridge College in West Lothian to study horticulture (Picture). But the 47 year-old former bank worker from Leith in Edinburgh will tell you that her return to full-time education has rekindled her thirst for learning, grown her ambition to work towards a degree in plant science and eventually, seek out a job looking after “a big, beautiful country estate somewhere”.
Julie, who has a daughter, Amy, at university, has already completed a National Certificate course in horticulture and garden design at Oatridge, Scotland premier landbased college, and after passing with “Distinction” is currently working towards a Higher National Certificate.
“We expect Julie to pass with flying colours,” says Ann Burns, the Horticultural Team Leader. “She already has a conditional acceptance from the Scottish Agricultural College in Edinburgh for next year to study for a BSC degree in Horticulture and Plant Science, so she is already well on her way to fulfilling her ambitions.”
After spending 23 years working in customer relations for the Royal Bank of Scotland, Julie’s life changed for ever on the death of her police officer husband, ten years ago. She says: “I had been with the bank since I left school in Leith and only expected to be there for about a year, until I sorted out what I wanted to do with my life. I stayed however and did a whole variety of jobs, but eventually I found I was being moved away from customer service and pushed to get sales. I’m not a sales person and the job no longer suited me.”
Always interested in flowers and gardening, Julie’s first thought was to train in floristry. She began with night classes, then a year-long City and Guilds course at Telford College. That led to a job in a florist’s shop where eventually she took charge of ordering and looking after houseplants. When the recession struck and business dropped off, Julie was forced into another rethink and that was when she decided to return again to college.
“I’m still involved with flowers,” she says. “I work with someone I went to Telford with and I help out at busy times, like when there are big weddings orders.”
Last year, during the Oatridge summer holidays, Julie got a summer job at Edinburgh Zoo and was actually involved in the preparation of the new enclosure for the most famous residents: The two giant pandas from China.
This summer she has a part-time job at Oatridge, managing the College’s new “Awards for All” allotment garden. Ann Burns says: “She’s doing a brilliant job and the feedback last year from the Zoo was fantastic. They thought she was a really great worker.”
Julie says: “When I first came to Oatridge I had a vague thought that I might be able to get work doing other people’s gardens, but the National Certificate course was great. You get a chance to do so much practical work – a little bit of everything – and it really builds confidence as you pick up new skills. There is some classroom work and it was doing the science that that made me want to carry on in education. I was interested in the lab work at school.”
As the recession continues, Julie acknowledges that many more people could be facing life-changing decisions, after many years in declining industry sectors. She says they should have no fears about taking the college route to a new career. “There are really no distinctions made about age in colleges. There is a mix of people, some just out of school, some more mature. For me it has been a completely positive experience, giving me a new interest in learning more things and encouraging me to go further in education.”