Work-based Learning: it’s never too late to expand on your learning

Upon leaving Ramsey Abbey, Debbie Rivers enrolled with Cambridge Regional College’s Huntingdon Campus to study Level 2 Care and entered a career in the care industry up graduation. Some years later, while working as a Care Assistant in a local care home, Debbie was given the opportunity for work-based learning through the Level 3 Award in Health and Social Care, and subsequently, she set about returning to learning for the first time since leaving College at the age of 17.

After some early disruptions to her learning, Debbie’s employers transferred her studies to Cambridge Regional College and it soon became clear that it would be the start of a very successful learning journey.

Debbie describes returning to learning as a daunting prospect as she had little faith in her English and maths skills, with her fears being so strong that she doubted her ability to produce the required written work to complete the course. After raising her concerns with her Tutor, Debbie discovered that she had access to all the help she needed to succeed, “I was honestly surprised how supportive my tutor was and could not believe the encouragement I was given. My tutor was fabulous, we worked through everything together and as a result, I achieved better English and maths results than expected, passing my exams first time.”

In addition, Debbie also learned to use a computer and with her renewed self-belief she purchased her first home computer after catching the learning bug. Debbie enjoyed her Level 3 studies so much that she did not hesitate in enrolling onto the September 2019 intake of the Level 4 Award in Adult Care, however, she once again, found that her studies were to be interrupted, this time by a global pandemic that saw the College go into lockdown along with the rest of the country.

Debbie Rivers with certificate

Debbie explains how she has continued with her learning in spite of these hurdles, “I am really enjoying my work-based learning, although I am missing that face-to-face contact with my tutor. We are in regular contact via video calls though and I am continually being encouraged to improve myself through smart targets. My journey with CRC started unexpectedly, but I have had such a positive experience, progressing in my learning that I decided to continue to the next level. I would not have done it anywhere else. My tutor went above and beyond to ensure I got the best out of my work-based learning and out of myself too.”

Debbie has also experienced success in her career with Rose Cottage, progressing to a senior position, and earlier this year, discovering that she had been nominated for the Greensleeves Excellence in Dementia Care 2020 Award. In July, in a live virtual ceremony with other Greensleeves nominees, Debbie discovered that she had won the award, “I could not believe it when the trustees picked me as their winner. I was not expecting it, I nearly fell over when I won. I’ve got to attend the official award ceremony next year to collect my award.”

Nominating Debbie, line managers Jennifer Dade and Amanda Crawley said, “Debbie lives and breathes the values of personhood every day demonstrating the skills and abilities needed to be present with the residents who live with Dementia. Debbie is always positive, responsive, gentle, and adaptive. She is a strong leader and is sought out by the residents, families, and colleagues alike. Debbie always encourages the team to reflect on their practice and thinks of ways to promote the wellbeing and quality of life of the residents even it means through unconventional or revolutionary ways.”

Debbie concludes, “If you are thinking of a return to learning, just go for it. A gentleman of 100 years once said to me, ‘every day is an opportunity to learn something new.’ It really is true; you are never too old and it’s never too late to expand your knowledge.”

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