“The thing I love about my computer is that I can do distance learning, which means I no longer have to ask the teacher to stand right in front of me so that I can lip-read what everyone else can hear.”
Over the last three years, Marie, now in her fifties, has gone from someone who left school without any qualifications to being the proud owner of an NVQ Level 2 certificate in Health and Social Care as well as Entry level literacy and numeracy qualifications, which she achieved through traditional group teaching along with a variety of on-line work-related learning awards.
“I had such a terrible time at school that when I heard that I would have to do an NVQ I nearly packed it in. I know now that even my mam and my teachers didn’t really understand how bad my hearing is, so the teachers just used to give me paper and tell me to draw. What they didn’t realize is that as soon as they walked around the room I wasn’t learning anything, as I could neither lip-read or nor hear a thing.”
As a consequence Marie left school at 15 as soon as she could, without any qualifications and got a job as a trainee sewing machinist, She loved the work as it was practical and depended on having good skills instead of qualifications and stayed with the company for seven years until the factory closed.
After a four-year career break, during which time she married, had children and lived abroad in South Africa where her husband worked in the oil industry, Marie spent three years being a part-time cleaner with Gateshead Council, on the family’s return to England. Then Marie saw an advert for home help vacancies with the council and was delighted when she was offered the job. She loved the work, as she found her gift for helping people.
“When I heard though that they were changing our roles to be domiciliary care staff and read the job description I thought I’ll never be able to so this. I had poor handwriting that other people found hard to read and my spelling was terrible so I was really worried about writing up the visit notes and reports and the maths involved in monitoring the client’s medication.
I’ll never forget meeting Mary, the Bridges to Learning union learning rep who was also the Council’s NVQ assessor. I said. ‘you don’t know what you’re taking on’ and she replied, ‘there’s no such things as can’t. I’ll help you all the way. The funny thing is, when I finished my NVQ I didn’t want to stop.”
Marie is thrilled with her progress since then, as she takes her job very seriously indeed.
“I’m red hot on my medication work now, as I often have to work out how many grams of medication people have to take at morning, tea and supper time, as they cannot do it themselves. I still get one of the other domiciliary care workers to check, cos it is so important, but I am delighted to say that I have never once made a mistake.”
She has gone on to complete an IT course, funded by Unison, and several on-line modules of care-related learning provided by the Council and now plans to take her European Computer Driving Licence in the next few months; it’s no wonder that she was runner up for Gateshead Council’s Learner of the Year Award in 2012.
“There’s no stopping me now”, she says, “ I’m no longer embarrassed about my hearing, or my handwriting and spelling, as the confidence that I’ve gained from improving my English and maths and proving that I can do it through my NVQ and day-to-day in my job means I can stand up for myself and be proud of what I’ve achieved in my fifties.”