When, at the age of 75, Margaret saw a poster in her local library advertising a project to learn basic radio broadcasting skills, she jumped at the chance to try something new. Margaret started with ‘First Steps in Radio’ run by Diversity in Barrier-Breaking Communications (DBBC), which whetted her appetite to learn more. This led to a level 2 course accredited by Ascentis/Lancaster University, ‘Media Techniques in Radio’, which she passed with flying colours. As a result, Margaret got involved with community radio station 96.5 Bolton FM, where she now hosts her own weekly show, with thousands of listeners. Wanting to ‘drive the desk’ at the radio station, Margaret has begun another course, Advanced Radio Presentation Skills using Myriad, to enable her to do just that.
Margaret uses her learning experiences to inspire older people to take up learning by giving public presentations. “To say that my life has changed is an understatement!” said Margaret. “At 75, who’d have thought I’d be entering a new career? A career that is vibrant, fun and gives me a buzz,” she enthused.
Karen had not really stepped outside her home environment for almost ten years due to mental health issues, so it was a massive step when she enrolled at Intraining in Blackpool with a view to learning new skills to find work. She was apprehensive but was supported by staff and her husband, and achieved levels 1 and 2 in Literacy and Numeracy, passed a basic first aid qualification, learned IT skills and completed a CV.
In October 2010 Karen started a voluntary position at a women’s centre in Blackpool and, as part of the training, completed Child Protection and level 2 Sexual Health courses. She is now studying for a Diploma in Health and Social Care, hoping it’ll help lead to paid employment at the centre.
“My life has changed dramatically since I started training, it has improved in so many ways,” said Karen. “I have new friends, a social life, and an eagerness to go forward and continue to develop as a person and achieve more qualifications.”
In March 2009 Steven sought help from Addaction Blackpool for his drug and alcohol problem, and became abstinent within two months. During this time Steven attended the centre’s IT classes, run by Blackpool Council Adult, Community and Family Learning (ACFL). At first he found it a challenge but he persevered and his confidence grew. He completed a few courses before deciding to study for an IT qualification, which meant venturing outside the familiarity of Addaction. Steven completed a European Computer Driving Licence, despite overcoming some difficulties at the beginning and now his friends turn to him for computer advice. Steven has also completed a level 2 Peer Led Support and Information course and has studied to become a Watchkeeper for National Coastwatch Institute at Fleetwood Nautical College.
“My learning has played a massive role in keeping me abstinent. It keeps me busy and stops me getting bored,” said Steven. “Overall I am a lot happier now in my life and also I am a lot healthier... I have exceeded my own expectations of myself.”
Five years ago, when Tina struggled to help with her young children’s homework, she worried about the example she was setting them. So, she went to The Broughton Trust to improve her own skills, initially attending classes in Child Development level 1, then moving on to numeracy. In total, Tina gained qualifications in Health and Social Studies level 1, Psychology levels 1 and 2, and Literacy, Counselling, Teaching Assistant and Numeracy all at level 2. Tina supported her peers in class and regularly brought people to the centre to learn. This voluntary role progressed into paid employment when she became a Learning Development Worker for The Broughton Trust in January 2010.
Tina continued her learning and completed a level 2 Adult Learning Support and an NVQ level 3 in Information, Advice and Guidance. She will shortly begin a qualification in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector, enabling her to deliver courses in the community. “I am now a great example to my kids and I can tell them to work at school as they see me doing it and achieving,” reflected Tina.
Living in a residential care home with physical and mental health problems meant that the flexibility and pace of distance learning worked best for Stephen and in June 2007 he gained his first qualification – a Certificate in Archaeology from the University of Exeter. Just a month later Stephen began a Diploma distance-learning course with the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology, passing in June 2010. Stephen gained consistently good grades through the determination and self-motivation that is required with distance learning, despite numerous health setbacks along the way, and is now enrolled on a BA Archaeology programme so he can obtain a degree.
Nominator, Ruth, said of Stephen: “Stephen has overcome many personal challenges to grasp the opportunity of studying that has saved his life, and through studying he has come to believe that he is not a ‘loser’.” Stephen added, “This course is giving me back my self-esteem and confidence and I would say to anyone in my situation, don’t give up, anything is possible – as I have proved.”
Alec left school in 2001 and moved between unskilled jobs until he was made redundant in 2010. Wanting to gain a trade and qualifications, Alec responded to an advert from joinery company, Sashes and Shutters, for an apprentice and was successful. As part of the apprenticeship in Wood Occupations (Bench Joinery) Alec is currently studying for a Technical Certificate in Bench Joinery level 2, an NVQ in Bench Joinery level 2 and key skills in Communication and Application level 2, with Swindon College. Alec excels in his training and is a model employee at work, which has encouraged him to continue to level 3 on completion of his current study.
Despite having to commute over 20 miles a day to work on bicycle or moped and support a family on apprentice wages, Alec feels the apprenticeship has changed his life for the better. “I am much more focussed and I am really enjoying my learning both in my workplace and at college... I am doing a real job in a real workplace gaining the most brilliant experience,” said Alec.
At fifteen, Brett left school with no qualifications to run the family shop, and later worked as a lorry driver. Having always had an ambition to work in the care sector, in September 2009 Brett completed a Community First Responders training course, learning basic life support, defibrillator and oxygen training and dealing with medical emergencies. This allowed him to work voluntarily with South West Ambulance Service providing care to the local community until Paramedics arrived. This experience spurred Brett into beginning an Access to Higher Education Science course at Bridgwater College in 2010, taking on two part-time jobs so he could juggle study and family life around them.
Brett is soon to finish the Access course and has been offered a university place to study to become a paramedic, starting in September 2011. Brett said: “I feel that for me to achieve my grades at college and then to get a place at university is something that I never in the past thought possible, but now I feel is achievable.”
In 1999 Angela took one of her children to enrol at college; when it became apparent that she needed help to complete a form, staff assessed her for a learning difficulty. The diagnosis of dyslexia finally gave Angela the motivation to try to learn to read and write. She began with a basic English course, a typing course and entry level 3 Maths, allowing her to help the youngest of her children with their homework. This gave her the confidence to continue and complete level 3 Maths and CIT stage 1, followed by a volunteering role at her younger children’s school. Angela then began volunteering for Homestart, supporting hard-to-reach families and inspiring them with her own success story. She completed an NVQ2 in Advice and Guidance to formally support this role, and is currently studying at level 3.
Angela has referred more than 20 learners on to courses through her work at Homestart and loves watching them reaps the benefits of learning. “I enjoy learning and hope I can encourage as many people as possible to experience that joy,” she concluded.
Tafadzwa – known as TC – joined the Army in 2001 and within a couple of years completed NVQ2 Telecommunications, level 2 in Team Leading and a CLAIT course. His abilities were recognised and he was sent on military ICT courses, which led to him running the unit IT Department. The Royal Artillery Centre for Personal Development supported TC as he completed Key Skills level 2 in 2010, followed by a Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector qualification, an Advanced Apprenticeship and ICT NVQ3.
TC has recently completed an Advanced ECDL and will take PRINCE2 Project Management exams on his return from Afghanistan. He is determined to enjoy a full career in the Army, and hopes to work his way to a degreelevel qualification. “All the new skills I have learnt have changed my Army prospects and enabled me to convert my interest in IT into skills that are valued and help me stand out.”
Kirstie has overcome prejudice to succeed in a maledominated field. On entering further education in 2007, she took courses in vehicle body and paint operations, achieving level 3 in record time. She then started a vehicle paint repair job and enrolled with Derbyshire Adult Continuing Education to study City & Guilds Welding courses, progressing from level 1 to level 3 in just 16 months. She won the Automotive Custom Paint Competition in 2008. Education-hungry Kirstie joined the University of Derby at Buxton College and gained ABC level 2 Welding, as well as a Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector qualification. She’s now completed ABC level 3 Welding and aims to complete the Certificate in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector, enabling her to teach Welding at Buxton College.
Kirstie’s commitment to learning means she has a career she enjoys: “My life has been greatly influenced by my training because I now excel in my job and earn a better wage. I have proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to.”