I attended Fort Hill Girls High School and hated school as teachers gave no encouragement to students who struggled with subjects. I left school during my 4th and 5th year as my family had a number of bereavements which affected me, and I went off the rails. When it came to exams, I didn’t write them and left with no qualifications to my name.
My first job was with a temping agency and then I fell pregnant with my first child. I struggled for years and could only then get a job cleaning in Tesco Connswater. This led to moving to Bentrim Road cleaning and through encouragement from management got a job on nightshift. I always thought that I wanted to have a career with children but with no qualifications that could not happen.
My decision to return to education was when Usdaw came to the store to do a Check Out Learning campaign. I know it may be hard to believe but I really had no idea about part time adult education at all. I did not know that you could attend college during the day or night to participate in courses.
I worked on nightshift and it was the night shift rep who had encouraged colleagues to come and speak to the Project Worker Lorna Morton. After talking with Lorna and the encouragement she gave me and showing how to improve my Maths by taking the National Numeracy Challenge, I enrolled for Essential Skills (ES) English, Maths and ICT at the local SERC through Usdaw.
During the year while studying my husband John was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour and was undergoing treatment of 30 rounds of radiotherapy and nine months of chemotherapy. This treatment led to him being admitted to hospital on two occasions due to bad reactions to the chemotherapy treatment.
Several times while this was going on, I thought I was not going to be able to keep up with everything and get enough studying done for my exams. But somehow, I used this as a way of putting everything to the side long enough to study and do what I needed. I subsequently passed my exams.
Completing the Essential Skills Level 1 and Level 2 courses gave me the encouragement and incentive to carry on with my learning journey. I have now enrolled for ES ICT Level 2 and have just completed this course.
If Lorna Morton, Usdaw’s Project Worker, had not come into the store that night I would not have dreamt about going back to learning and to achieve these qualifications. It truly has inspired me to continue onwards and upwards.
In February this year, Usdaw once again funded a 4-week CMI Level 3 Award in Project Management at SERC Lisburn and I grabbed the chance to increase my qualifications.
Completing the CMI Level 3 Project Management course has given me more confidence and the stepping-stone I needed to enrol for a Classroom Assistant course. I now will be going for the interview in June and if successful will start the course in September.
My daughter told me I was amazing to go back to learning at my time of life and both husband and daughter are extremely proud of what I have achieved. They are right behind me and gave me the encouragement to go and study for the classroom assistant.
I encouraged four of my colleagues from nightshift to enrol for Essential Skills English, Maths and ICT during the Check-out Learning Road Show. I never shut up and I am sure my colleagues are tired of me talking about courses, but it gave them the inspiration to do the same.
I will continue to encourage my colleagues to go back to learning as this is one of the best things that I have experienced in my life and my family are so proud of what I have achieved.
Lorna asked if she could put forward a nomination for me and a couple of other colleagues for an Essential Skills Award hosted by the ICTU at their ULR Conference in March. She invited me and my other colleague Lorraine Carey to speak at the conference which we agreed to do.
When it came to the Awards it was such a shock when my name was called out to receive the ICTU Essential Skills Learner of the Year 2019. This was just the icing on the cake as I was going that evening to receive an Excellence Award for Essential Skills ICT from my local SERC Lisburn College which Lorna agreed to attend with me.
This has really made me feel valued and what I have achieved in receiving both Awards. I can say this year will be in my memory for a very long time and this would never have happened if it had not been for my trade union Usdaw and its Project Worker Lorna Morton.