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Father of five Gregory McCormick graduates today with an BSc honours degree in Real Estate after returning to education when the family construction business he spearheaded went bankrupt.

Gregory left school to train as a joiner and went to work in the family construction business. He later started a home building company and worked across the island of Ireland building high quality houses.

When the recession hit in 2010, Gregory’s business, McCormickEstates, based in County Donegal, like many businesses went bankrupt. He lost everything including the family home and was unable to get another job. He says that his lack of formal qualifications was a real barrier to finding another job.

“All I knew was the property game but I was unemployable without any formal qualifications, notwithstanding the wealth of experience I possessed. Despite initially training as a joiner I had no recent experience so that option wasn’t open to me either. I can’t tell you how dark the days were. We were on the breadline and I had to keep a roof over my family’s head. I opened a small car wash business for a couple of years to get money coming into the house. This was a quick fix however not a long-term solution so I knew I had to return to education.”

Gregory found out about the access course in North West Regional College which is run in conjunction with Ulster University, with one year of intense study providing me with a route into further education. He completed this and was accepted on to the degree course at Ulster University which he said was life–changing.

“It gave me a new lease of life when I got accepted on to the degree programme! It was a very tough time and as a family we had to make a lot of sacrifices, however the support I received from my lecturers was unbelievable. They were always there to help.”

While completing his degree Gregory, and his wife welcomed a fifth child and much longed for daughter after four boys.

“I had always wanted a little girl so it was a dream to welcome our princess into the family.”

With lots of opportunities available to him Gregory is taking some time out before he takes the next step in his career. His dream is to once again open a family business with his son who has followed in his father’s footsteps and is currently studying for a degree in construction.

“Completing my degree has given me a serious confidence boost. I feel a real sense of achievement and no one can take this away from me! My time at Ulster University has helped me to believe in myself and again and I know now that anything is possible!”