Gabby studied the Health and Social Care Level 3 Extended Diploma at Activate Learning’s Banbury and Bicester College and graduated in 2019.
She first heard about the qualification while working at a nursery and realised that obtaining her diploma would open up a wider range of employment opportunities once she’d graduated.
“I learned I would be studying a wide range of different areas in health and social care and could therefore get a wide choice of jobs and courses after graduating, like going into midwifery, childcare or nursing; it would open a lot of doors to different career pathways that I could go down. It didn’t limit me to any one career.”
Gabby’s prediction was correct and she is now studying an Adult Nursing degree at Oxford Brookes University. As her course at Activate Learning was the equivalent of three A Levels, she got the UCAS points she needed to join a degree-level course, which is something that she had really wanted to do.
Gabby says of college that, “The best thing about going [there] was being able to put our practical skills to use during the lessons. We spent about half our time on placements, getting the practice that made all our theory make sense; we weren’t just reading out of textbooks about how to do things, we were actually doing it. You can’t always learn those skills and the caring side of it from a textbook. You need that human interaction to learn those skills first hand.”
Indeed, Gabby admits that one of her weaknesses when she started college was communication. “I thought I would be able to go into a placement and be able to talk to anyone but it's not always like that. You have to really think about how you communicate with people. You meet so many different types of people on placement, which forces you to develop that skill and actually get good at it.”
The Learner Attributes, which is a system to build self-awareness and employment skills that all students at Activate Learning are asked to undertake, really helped Gabby build her confidence when communicating.
“The Learner Attributes gave us things to actually focus on improving, instead of just going into our placement and working for hours. It definitely helped me in what I’m doing now (my degree) and I feel like I’ll carry that on into my profession; they are attributes that you need to develop overtime. It’s better to start working on your professional attributes early, as it’s harder to do so in the future when you’re already at work. They give you a great base layer for having the right attitude at work.”
These skills were built during Gabby’s work placements, which are a vital part of the course. “I did four placements; two a year. I went to two nurseries, a care home and then Frank Wise, the special school in Banbury. I was given a wide variety of options when going in for my placements. I had worked at nurseries before, so I had worked with children, but my placements were the first time that I’d actually got to see more sides of the business.
“As a student, I could go and work with the nurses on the nurse station or help out in the kitchens or be the activity co-ordinator. You get to see how it all runs and how it all links up together.”
The course at Banbury and Bicester College provided the platform for the hard work that Gabby has put into her career and she is going from strength to strength after graduating. But what of the college itself?
“I loved it there! All the teachers were really supportive, and it was actually quite fun to be there. You'd want to actually go into college every day. There was always a lot of support there and always someone you could talk to.”
Gabby is an excellent example of ‘getting out what you put in’. Banbury and Bicester College is proud to have been able to give her the support she needed to excel. Gabby has a few words of advice for any prospective students:
“I would say to anyone who wants to do a Health and Social Care course at Banbury that it is definitely worth doing. If it's a career that you really want to get into, then it's better to go to college and do the practical placements they offer. You don't just have to do the Level 3, there's the level 2 as well, which you can study for a year and get a bit of a taster and see what it’s really like. There’s always someone there to talk to—who’s not holding your hand, but making sure that you actually still enjoy it. You’ll learn so much doing it and really grow your skill sets.”