From education to employment

Adult Learner’s Week – the UK’s biggest festival of adult learning

#InspireCymru21 – Taking place last night (Thursday 16th September), the Inspire! Awards feature as a key part of Adult Learners’ Week.

The Inspire! Awards recognised 13 winners throughout Wales who have demonstrated a commitment to lifelong learning, building confidence and developing vibrant and successful communities.

Fatma Al Nahdy: Different Pasts: Shared Futures Winner

“Before I started learning, I didn’t have any dreams. Now, I’m on my way to a career I love. I want to stay living in Wrexham. I’m proud of my community, and I want to contribute to it more in the future.”

When Fatma Al Nahdy made the journey to the UK from Yemen in 2015, she didn’t speak any English. She was pregnant with her son and 35 years old. Due to the ongoing wars and turbulent situation in Yemen she had never attended school.

Now, she has been accepted onto a nursing degree at Bangor University and gives back by interpreting for other refugees like her

Clare Palmer: Essential Skills for Life Winner

“At one point I was working up to 60 hours a week, sometimes working seven days in a row. We were exhausted. On top of that, I was trying to balance my own learning with looking after my son. I’m still not sure how, but we got through it.”

Clare left school at 14 with no qualifications and by the age of 18, she was a mum with a baby son to care for

When she moved back to Wales, she decided to use her passion for helping others to become a care assistant

After six years working in the care sector, she joined the Vale Learning Centre to help to achieve her dream career of becoming a social worker – whilst working in the hard-hit care sector during the pandemic

Clare has now completed her Level 2 Application of Number at the Vale Learning Centre and is about to start university


Two Gower College Swansea students – Phyllis Gregory and Wilnelia De Jesus – have won awards at the Inspire! Adult Learning Awards, which celebrates lifelong learning.

Winelia De Jesus

Wilnelia, who left school after her GCSE’s to support her one-parent family, rose through the ranks of law firm Greenaway Scott and became a Practice Manager at just 21 years old. She then embarked on a Leadership and Management Apprenticeship, steering the multi-million pound group through the operational challenges of the pandemic. Excelling on the apprenticeship, she has since completed a Project Management qualification and will be enrolling on a Level 5 Diploma in Management.

Wilnelia won the Young Adult Award: “I hope my story can show other young people of colour to ignore career stereotypes. You can do anything you want if you are willing to work hard enough. Being brought up in a Portuguese-speaking home, we ate Portuguese foods, watched Portuguese television and listened to Portuguese music. It sometimes felt like a communication barrier in primary school. However, I now realize that being bilingual is a huge advantage.”

​​​​​​​“It was a baptism of fire. It was not easy to cope with a full time – and often very intensive – job and a challenging qualification. I had a lot of doubts at first – I was finding it hard to believe in myself and find a work-life balance. I continued, and I am so grateful to have done so.”

​​​​​​​“Although I have not taken a traditional educational route with A Levels or university, I have been fortunate to have a great support system around me at work. I’m going to keep learning, I haven’t come that far to stop now. Knowledge is a force, so whatever I can do to improve myself and get to the next level – I will do it. I am really proud to be a person of colour succeeding in this sector.”

Phyllis Gregory

Phyllis Gregory, 93 year old Digital Literacy learner at Gower College Swansea, scooped the Ageing Well Award. Phyllis has always had a passion for writing and poetry, winning numerous competitions throughout her life.

​​​​​​​When she started to experience shaking hand syndrome, Phyllis found that she could no longer write poetry by hand. Determined to continue what she loved, she saw this as an opportunity to learn to use a computer, and she enrolled on a Digital Literacy course with Gower College Swansea. She has completed Entry Level 1 and Entry Level 2.

​​​​​​​“People think once you get your free bus pass, that’s it” says Phyllis. “But I’m the kind of person who can’t sit still, I like doing things. I was intimidated to join the course, but the tutors were fantastic and made me feel very welcome. I received every possible support from them. It was a very pleasant experience.”

​​​​​​​“I’ve got my words back, which is great, but I’ve also made new friends. My hearing has recently deteriorated but the College and my new friends have made sure I can keep learning. My tutor Ruth Benson is full of patience and sympathy. It has made it possible for me to keep going – I can’t thank her enough.”

​​​​​​​Phyllis truly embodies what lifelong learning represents. According to her tutor, Ruth Benson: “Phyllis is not just a Digital Literacy student at Gower College Swansea, she is, in fact, an inspiration to us all.”


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