Healthcare workers, NHS staff, and carers became national heroes for their tireless work during the pandemic. They inspired so many, and now, lots of people are turning to colleges and universities to retrain and start a new career in this rewarding industry.
Francesca Langford completed a Healthcare Practice HND with us in 2018 and is now working in her dream job. Her degree helped her climb the career ladder into a managerial role in a care home in Battle. She is now encouraging other people who are thinking about changing careers to return to education at East Sussex College.
Francesca said, “I’ve worked in the care industry since leaving school at 16, and coming back to education was always something I wanted to do.”
Francesca got the gentle nudge she needed while taking her daughter to an open event at East Sussex College Eastbourne.
“I was looking at A-Level options with my daughter and enquired about Health and Social Care courses. I got chatting to the course leader, and within a week, I started the Healthcare Practice at the Lewes campus!
“I was a bit apprehensive about returning to education at my age, but my tutors were amazing. They’ve been an inspiration to me. The smaller class size really helped me to thrive because I had lots of time with my tutors for in-depth discussions around the topics. We even set up a WhatsApp group which meant I always had support, even outside the classroom.
Francesca’s time at East Sussex College taught her more about the industry and also helped her to discover more about herself.
Francesca continued, “I remember having a feedback session with my tutor about my coursework, and she told me that I was exceptional in presentations, but my written work wasn’t as good. She suggested that I take a learning disabilities assessment to see if there was any extra help the college give me. I then discovered that I had Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. At first, I was devastated and could not comprehend how I had not noticed this before. Emotionally, I struggled, but the tutors went above and beyond to support me. I began to excel in my written assignments, and it changed the way I looked at learning. I was able to organise everything much better, including at work and at home.”
Alongside her studies, Francesca had a busy role as mum to two teenagers and a five-month-old baby. She was also working three nights a week as a senior carer in a residential home.
“I’m not saying it was easy, far from it, but the course was set up to fit around childcare and work. Plus, I had the support from my husband, who kept encouraging me to reach my career goals. I was determined to set a good example to my children and show them that hard work and dedication can help you achieve anything.
“I completed my first year, which was the HNC, and progressed to the HND, where I gained a more in-depth understanding about the mental complexities of Care. It really gave me a different perspective about work and life.”
Towards the end of the HND, Francesca’s commitment and determination won her the bronze award for BTEC Child & Social Care Student of the Year. She was one step closer to achieving her dream of becoming a Registered Care Home Manager.
“The end of my HND was brilliant," said Francesca, "I passed my course and won the bronze award for student of the year. At this point, I’d completed my goal of finishing my course and was one step closer to my dream of being a care home manager. While I was looking at my opinions, my tutor told me about a top-up degree at the University of Brighton. It sounded perfect, so I applied and started the course that September.
“However, within the first couple of months, I had the unexpected but brilliant news that I was pregnant with my fourth child. The uni was really supportive, but I decided to pause my studies.
Although Francesca’s studies were on pause, her dreams certainly weren't. She was able to use her HND qualification to secure a deputy manager role, and within six months, she became a Registered Care Home Manager.
“In November 2019, I became a Registered Care Home Manager for Cedars Care Group at Cedarwood House in Battle. It is an amazing little country home with 20 residents with Dementia. The CEOs and operation team care about their staff and residents and provide outstanding care in unique homes across the UK.
“In September of last year, I went back to pick up where I left off with my top-up degree. It’s been hard to find the balance between work, studies and being a mum, but I did not want to give up on what I started.
“I’m on course to graduate this June, and then I can focus on my career with Cedars Care Group. My team and residents have become my extended family. I love my home from home, and it is everything I dreamed of and more. My next goal is to grow with the company and maybe one day work in operations and support as many homes as I can.
“My advice to anyone that wants to start their career in the care industry is to stay strong, to accept support when offered, and to have faith. No matter the obstacles, you will get there in the end.
“I like to believe I am a success story, and I hope other people read this and see that they can achieve their dreams if they set their mind to it.”
We’re so proud of Francesca and really pleased to have been part of her inspiring journey into her dream career. If you are thinking about retraining or switching to a career in Care, please check out our HND Healthcare Practice, and other degree-level courses so you can gain the qualifications, support, and opportunities to help you succeed.
Find out more on our dedicated degree page.
Thanks to BA (Hons) Photography student, Craig Penfold, for the main story image.