An inspirational mature student from Cardiff has won a top learning award.
Sheila Lillywhite won the Caerphilly Learner of the Year 2012 award which was announced at the launch of the recent Caerphilly Learning Festival.
The week-long Festival is held in venues across Caerphilly and is a local celebration of the national Adult Learners’ Week, which aims to encourage more people to take the first step back into learning.
Sheila was nominated in the Employee in Learning category after achieving a Certificate in Education and then a First Class BA (Hons) PcET degree as a student at The College Ystrad Mynach, while also working full time.
She decided she wanted to go back to the classroom to make sure she had the qualifications and tools she needed to progress in her career.
Sheila, 51, from Cardiff, works as a tutor at Working Links in Castle Street, Caerphilly, where she teaches small groups of unemployed people the essential life skills they need to get back into the world of work, such as confidence, attitude, decision-making and problem solving.
Sheila completed her Certificate in Education at The College Ystrad Mynach before going onto to gain her Degree in Education and Training at the age of 50. And she did all this while working full time with Working Links.
“It’s lovely to win this award,” said married Sheila, who enjoys spending time in her garden and walking in the great outdoors.
“I didn’t have the chance to do a degree after school. For me to go back to learning at 48 was quite an achievement and to be able to do it more affordably and do it locally was a real asset.”
Sheila had to juggle full time work and her studies at The College.
“The Certificate of Education lectures went from 2pm to 8pm so I was able to arrange with work for me to make up my hours at another time. The degree course was over two years and was very intense. It was great to be able to do it at The College Ystrad Mynach because it was close to work.”
And Sheila found her studying also had a positive effect on her tutor work.
She said: “We teach life skills like motivation, attitude, team-working and confidence as a way of encouraging people to believe in themselves and make progress towards work.
“I found that the learning was crucial and has changed the way I train and structure things at work. It allowed me to be a better tutor and more professional in what I do.”
Principal at The College Ystrad Mynach Bryn Davies, who presented Sheila with her award, said: “Everyone at The College was delighted that Sheila won this award.
“Going back to the classroom later in life can be daunting and Sheila not only gained two very impressive qualifications, but did it all while working full time as well. That shows real determination and a terrific will to succeed. We are really pleased The College was able to play a part in helping Sheila to succeed.”
Sheila was a joint winner of the award along with Raymond James, 41, from Risca, who after being unemployed for 20 years due to a disease of the spine, spent a year learning computer, reading and writing skills before landing a job.
The awards were presented by Anthony Sullivan, chief executive of Caerphilly CBC, Dr Francis Cowe, deputy director (curriculum), Universities Heads of the Valleys Institute, Richard Spear, director, Niace Dysgu Cymru, and Bryn Davies, principal at The College Ystrad Mynach.
The Learning Festival, now in its sixth year, saw representatives from Caerphilly County Borough Council (Community Education and Libraries, Community Focused Schools, Genesis 2, Bridges into Work, and Working Skills for Adults), Chwarae Teg, Coleg Gwent, Communities First, Niace Dygsu Cymru, QWEST, SOLAS-Cymru, The College Ystrad Mynach, University of Wales Newport, WEA and Welsh for Adults put on a host of exciting events.
They included family learning events, money advice sessions, online language learning lessons, art and craft sessions, college information evenings, family history sessions, IT skills lessons and Nordic walking, gardening and beauty treatment sessions.