Healthcare worker Pearl Patel is living testimony that it is never too late to return to education.
Pearl left secondary school in Birmingham as a 16-year-old with just a handful of GCSE exams to her name.
But, after working first at a residential home and then at a supermarket in the city, she has decided, at the age of 43, to go to college on an apprenticeship.
Pearl, who lives in Sheldon, has embarked on an NVQ level 3 in health and social care after enrolling at Birmingham Metropolitan College.
And she hopes the qualification will help improve her career path in healthcare after starting work at Heartlands Hospital in Bordesley Green.
Pearl, who attended Byng Kenrick Central secondary school in Tile Cross, said: “I left school at 16 with a few GCSEs. I can’t remember how many because it’s such a long time ago.
“I got a job at a residential home in Erdington, and then spent 10 years working in customer services at Asda in Small Heath. But I wanted to work in healthcare as I just like looking after people. So I got a job at Heartlands Hospital as a healthcare assistant.
“Basically, I look after the emotional and physical care, and day to day needs of the patients at the hospital, from bathing them to helping them eat their food. And I help with their emotional needs as well.”
Pearl attends her weekly lessons in the hospital’s own lecture theatre, after taking her initial maths and English tests at the college’s Matthew Boulton campus at Eastside.
The rest of her course involves modules and homework.
“When you have been out of education for such a long time, like I have, it is very daunting to begin with, but I’m determined put my head down and get on with things.
“My two assessors from the college, Shirley and Rita have been fantastic so far and really inspirational.
“I just want the chance to better myself and get a better position at Heartlands.”