After working in hairdressing for over 30 years, Nancy Neill decided it was time for a change. She applied for the NC Health and Social Care course at Kilmarnock Campus last year, and has already managed to secure her dream job.
Emma McIlvanney, Marketing and PR Officer, caught up with Nancy in one of her classes to find out what it was like to return to college and retrain for a new career.
What inspired you to pursue a career in care?
I had supported a young person through a traumatic time in their life and found the experience fulfilling. Being involved with social work and adolescent support teams was a whole new experience for me and a world I’d never known. The lease on my salon was coming to an end, so it seemed like the right time to take the plunge.
Did you have any concerns about starting college?
My biggest concern about returning to education was the learning. It had been years since I’d sat behind a desk, typed or looked at books. I was worried about not being able to keep up or understand things.
Once I had made the decision that I wanted to work in the social care sector and be an adolescent support worker, I came into the College for some advice. Jackie from Student Services gave me lots of useful advice and helped me to apply for the NC Health and Social Care course.
Did you get the support you needed?
We were given information about the range of services available to students. I personally never used any of the many support systems that the College have in place, but some of my friends did. They got lots of help and felt really well supported.
The staff in the Learning Resource Centre were fantastic. They assisted with many things, such as, reducing word count on assignments, binding, printing, searching for books. Anything they could do for you, they would.
How would you describe your college experience?
The course was very varied and covered a range of care topics. It is an excellent entry level course to working in care and provided a general introduction to the needs of people who access care and support services.
I was in college two and a half days per week and my semester two timetable looked like this:
- Values and Principles
- Mental Health
- Working with Individuals with Additional Support Needs
- First Aid
- Understanding the Needs of the Older Person
- Healthy Eating
- Families in a Modern Society
My favourite subjects were ‘Mental Health’, ‘Human Development and Sociology’ and ‘Prevention of Infection’ – I found these classes really interesting. My most difficult subject was ICT. Deadlines for projects were also demanding, but support from classmates and lecturers got me through.
Although there were some tears and tantrums, I’ve had a fantastic experience at college. I really enjoyed learning and can’t believe what I am capable of now. My lecturers were very patient, and made my time here extremely worthwhile.
It was refreshing to know that I wasn’t the only mature student – there were loads. It’s like being part of a family. I have met such a lovely group of friends, this was good for me, as I wasn’t very sociable before.
I loved student life – the holidays and the discounts were great. It was a little financially challenging, but Student Funding were really helpful, and ensured I got what I was entitled to.
During my studies, I volunteered with Childline, this gave me valuable, real life experience.
I planned to continue at college onto my HNC course but I am delighted that I have managed to secure a job. I saw it advertised, and asked my lecturer’s advice on whether to apply. If nothing else the application and interview would be good experience. She recommended that I ‘go for it’ so I did, and I got it.
I am now employed as an adolescent support worker, supporting children that have experienced trauma. I never imagined that I’d be familiar with all the terminology, or have the knowledge required for this post, but my hard work, and the support and encouragement I received, has allowed me to secure my dream job.
I would like to come back in the evening to complete the HNC qualification.
Advice for others who are thinking of changing career
My advice to others contemplating coming to this College is ‘just do it’. I’m so glad I did. It’s not as scary as you think. College has completely changed me as a person, and opened my eyes to a whole new world. Learning is amazing, and I am proud of myself and what I have achieved.
If you are thinking about returning to education and retraining for a career in care, take Nancy’s advice and take the plunge!
Applications are open online and there are still places available: