THE end of an era has arrived at Lakes College as the longest-serving governor has stepped down after more than 20 years.

Norma Boyes MBE joined the board of governors in July 1998 and, almost a quarter of a century later, has now stepped down, with the college unrecognisable from when she started.

The local education landscape has transformed in that time, with the original West Cumbria College – spread across Park Lane in Workington, Flatt Walks in Whitehaven and the old Lillyhall School – making way for the Lakes College campus.

Whitehaven News: PASSION: Norma in her role as Cockermouth Show secretary PIC: Paul JohnstonePASSION: Norma in her role as Cockermouth Show secretary PIC: Paul Johnstone

The growth of the new college and the development of the Construction Skills Training Centre, National College for Nuclear and the new multi-million-pound Civil Engineering Training Centre has left Norma proud of the key part she has played.

Norma joined the board at a time when it was tasked with ushering in a new era of further education in west Cumbria and, while she did not have an academic background, the community was in her heart.

“I’ve always been keen on education and been involved in the Young Farmers,” she said.

“In 1998 not many people went to university so they had to have an alternative.

“We’re now in a brilliant position.

“I joined because I wanted to make a difference for the community but especially for the children in the area.”

Whitehaven News: TIME: The one of the old building is the former college building at Park Lane in WorkingtonTIME: The one of the old building is the former college building at Park Lane in Workington

One of the first key decisions Norma was involved with was the recruitment of a new principal; the first of five she worked with over the course of her time on the board.

She believes the college has been on a ‘continuous improvement curve’ since it opened its Lillyhall building in 2001 and believes diligent work by the college’s board, management and finance department have ensured that it has been built in a sustainable way.

And she believes that dedication to continuous improvement is key to the college’s role in the community.

Whitehaven News: NEW: The new Lakes College building NEW: The new Lakes College building

She said: “If you don’t look forward, you go backward.

“I’m probably the oldest thing on the site because I was there before it was but I was still keen and I was honoured to think that people felt that my contribution was so valuable that they wanted to keep me on the board.

Whitehaven News: PROGRESS: Norma (right) at the opening of the Civil Engineering Training Centre at Lakes CollegePROGRESS: Norma (right) at the opening of the Civil Engineering Training Centre at Lakes College

“It’s about having a belief in what you’re doing; the facilities are brilliant, then you have good teaching and keen students.”

Norma will continue her links with the college as she is now a director of Lakes College Enterprise Board and co-opted back as a member of the college’s audit committee.

Away from education, Norma, of Howgate, worked as an administrator with the Rural Payments Agency at Defra in Workington, and received an MBE in 2011.

She has also been the organiser of the popular annual Cockermouth Show since 1988.