Michelle Dolan has built a new life for herself and her sons.

A domestic abuse victim who has developed a successful career and brought up four sons on her own is hoping that her story will inspire other women to believe in themselves.

Michelle Dolan, 46, was at rock bottom when she fled with her sons from their home, but now 17 years later, she is enjoying life as the deputy manager of a residential home for adults with mental health and learning disabilities at Clydach, near Swansea.

Having worked part-time whilst bringing up sons, now aged from 18 to 23, Michelle decided to take the bull by the horns five years ago when she knocked on the door at the Awelon Healthcare home in Clydach and asked for a job.

Staff gave her an application form, invited her for an interview and she secured a job as a support worker. The rest, as they say, is history, as Michelle has climbed the promotion ladder to become deputy manager, leading a team of 17 staff.

Her passion for her job, the home, staff colleagues and the people she cares for has encouraged Michelle to improve her skills and knowledge through the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship Programme.

Despite being out of education for 20 years, Michelle achieved an Apprenticeship (Quality Credit Framework Level 3) in Health and Social Care. She was then encouraged by PeoplePlus assessor Yvonne Hammond to progress to a Higher Apprenticeship QCF Level 5 Advanced, continuing with support to complete her QCF Level 5 Registered Managers Award.

To be able to complete her framework, Michelle upskilled her English and Maths to ensure that she had all the skills she needed to progress. She has now become a Registered Care Manager and hopes to continue her learning journey with an Institute of Management Higher Apprenticeship.

“Soon after starting with Awelon Healthcare I knew I had found my niche and passion,” said Michelle. “It can be very challenging work at times but also very rewarding.

“It doesn’t seem like work to me because I enjoy my job so much. I love the interaction with the service users and watching how they progress with us.

“It was Yvonne’s enthusiasm and support that spurred me to do my Higher Apprenticeship and I am very proud of what I have achieved. Completing the qualifications has changed my life in so many ways.”

Michelle hopes her story will inspire other women who have escaped abusive relationships and has this advice for them: “Take each day as it comes, set yourself small goals and believe in yourself.

“When I left my ex-husband, I had lost all my confidence and self-esteem, which made me feel a useless person and mother. Now I am proud to have a job that I love, I have achieved qualifications and I am a role model to my sons who are all doing well.

“It feels like my old life was a dream because of how far I have come. I have shown that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.”

Yvonne praised Michelle’s commitment to continuous learning, her leadership skills and her dedication. “She is committed not only to her qualifications and personal development, but also to the organisation she works for, her colleagues and the people she supports.

“The wellbeing and quality of life of the people she supports are at the forefront of everything she does.”

Humie Webbe, Apprenticeships Strategic Equality and Diversity Lead at the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), congratulated Michelle on her inspirational learning journey.

“Michelle’s story shows what can be achieved through determination and appropriate support,” said Humie. “Our vision is to create a learning environment where everyone has the chance to go as far as their talent and hard work will allow, regardless of background.

“We want to ensure that apprenticeships are perceived to be for all and that barriers to participation are removed.”

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