Connecting Learners In South West & Central Wales: Five Minutes in February With…

The UNISON Connecting Learners project is funded by the Welsh Government via the Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF). The aim of the project is to widen participation in learning.

We continue our series today with a spotlight on Debbie John, a Training Officer at Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council. The series explores “what does lifelong learning mean to me?”

Name: Deborah ( Debbie ) John

Role: Training & Development Support Officer, Unison ULR & Lifelong Learning Coordinator.

Debbie is also the Cymru Wales UNISON Union Learning Rep of the Year (2016)

Why is lifelong learning so important to you?

We are never too old to learn. In my role as a ULR and Lifelong Learning Coordinator, I have felt inspired by the adult learners I have worked with, especially when I have seen the progression in their lives and the increase in their self-esteem. To feel that you can make a difference to someone is rewarding and encouraging.

Best learning experience (and why):

Most of my learning has been done from the age of 40+. I went to college at the age of 42 after being told by a family member that I was too old to learn something new, so I was determined to prove them wrong. This time I could choose my subjects and learn about things that interested me. Originally I planned to become a teaching assistant, but after completing my Level 3 teaching assistant’s course I was offered a position within the Learning, Training & Development team at NPTCBC.

Whilst in the workplace, I have been fortunate to attend many work related training courses and completed several NVQ’s. I also had the opportunity to attend university (when I was 50) to know how to promote and support Equality for Dyslexic Individuals in the Workplace, so I am now a Dyslexia Workplace Needs Assessor. As a member of Unison, I often receive information offering various learning opportunities and I continue to feel motivated to further my development. I am hoping to start an Advice & Guidance Level 4 qualification soon.

Worst learning experience (and why):

This was whilst in school; I was in an all-girl comprehensive school for 3/12 years then moved to a mixed gender school whereby I just had to slot into classes and do subjects that were available and not by choice. This was a bit of a shock and obviously also had a few distractions too to say the least.

What advice would you give to someone considering a route back in to learning?

You are never too old to learn. One thing I like is the word impossible- change this to I’m possible. If I can do it, you can too!!