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Mum of two secures dream job after returning to education as adult learner

Harriet Willis-Adams with her family at her graduation from Cardiff Met this year

A mum of two from Cardiff who went back to education as an adult learner has secured her dream managerial job working with vulnerable people at a housing association.

Harriet Willis-Adams, 33 from Cathays, began volunteering for Cadwyn Housing Association to give back to society and was encouraged to try an access course that could lead to continued education and employment opportunities in the housing sector.

After completing the Level 3 Health & Social Care accredited course through Cardiff Metropolitan University’s Widening Access programme, Harriet then went on to complete both a Social Sciences foundation degree and an undergraduate degree in housing at the Cardiff School of Education and Social Policy.

Now, in Adult Learners’ Week 2023 (Monday 18th – Friday 25th September), Harriet is encouraging others who want to increase their employment opportunities to consider Widening Access courses as an entry into gaining qualifications.

She said: “Going back to education has been so rewarding and showed me that learning doesn’t have to end at school. Completing an access course is a great way of deciding if education is for you. It’s free, so you won’t lose anything but might gain an awful lot from it, as I did. The access course was the stepping stone that has allowed me to achieve my degree and full time employment in an industry I love.”

After graduating in the summer from Cardiff Met Uni, Harriet successfully secured a full-time job with Cadwyn Housing Association as a Team Leader for supported accommodation.

Her four-year journey in education from the access course to graduation was completed alongside being a mum, having a cleaning business on the side and volunteering with Cadwyn.

She continued: “It was definitely daunting stepping into the lecture theatre for the first time and no one in my family has been to university so I didn’t have anyone to ask what to expect. But I quickly met lots of likeminded people on the course who were on a similar journey to my own and had returned to education. Seeing other adult learners who were also balancing family life and work was so inspiring and spurred me on.”

Cardiff Met’s Widening Access programme gives people of any age, background or ethnic group fair and equal opportunity to study access, foundation or degree level courses, and has supported almost 450 individuals through a course in the last year. It runs in partnership with Reaching Wider, a national partnership of universities, schools and colleges working together to improve social mobility by widening access to all forms of higher education and funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).

Harriet said: “I had brilliant support at Cardiff Met from the lecturers who were so accommodating and understanding of my situation. That made returning to education a really positive experience and I’m even considering a Master’s alongside employment if the opportunity came around. There’s nothing stopping me now.”