Nicola Wilson wasn’t interested in school, leaving in fifth year with few qualifications and little motivation for what she wanted to do with her future.
Now, at age 23, Nicola is pursuing a degree in law. Sound unlikely? Not with the help of New College Lanarkshire!
When Nicola struggled to get a job after leaving school, she applied to an employability programme at NCL’s Motherwell Campus.
She was successful in her application, and joined the Certificate of Work Readiness programme in 2014. Designed to prepare students for the world of work, the programme develops life skills and confidence while offering recognised qualifications.
With the support of Employability Officer, Anne-Marie Irwin and Student Adviser, Jean Barclay, Nicola achieved a work placement with Experience Counts at the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), based in Motherwell.
She started the 15-week work placement with the mental health charity, which helps people that suffer from mild to moderate mental health issues.
She said: “I was very shy when I started my placement due to lack of experience. However, my new boss Eileen was amazing - she showed me the ropes and trained me into becoming a great administration assistant.
“15 weeks passed very quickly and I was gutted when it was over. But a few weeks later, I got an email to say that the Admin Assistant job for SAMH was advertised on their website and I had to apply. So I did, and I got it! I have never looked back since.”
During her time with SAMH, Nicola had the opportunity to train to be a fire warden and first aider as well as gain Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.
She continued: “Fast forward five years from when I started my placement and I’m a completely different person. I have completed various training programmes to boost my confidence and thanks to my work trusting me with such responsibility, I now really believe in myself.”
Nicola decided to use this newfound confidence and think about her future, and spoke to her manager about the possibility of reducing her hours to part-time to allow her to attend college.
She continued: “I felt that I was mature enough to decide on what career path to take and thanks to everyone at Experience Counts, I finally knew who I was as a person and what type of person I wanted to be remembered as.
“I decided to pursue a career in the legal services sector as I want to be a voice for the vulnerable. I chose to apply to NCL as they had been so supportive when I first attended and I knew I would have a good experience.”
Nicola was successful in her application and is currently studying HND Legal Studies – where she achieved an A in her first year graded unit. Now 23, she is applying to university to pursue an LLB in Law or a BA (Hons) in Criminology.
She said: “If you had told me I would be where I am right now five years ago, I would have laughed and said no chance.
“The Certificate of Readiness course is the reason I’m where I am today and NCL should be very proud that you help kids like me find their feet. I’ll never forget it,”
Anne Marie Irwin, Employability Officer, said: “Nicola had a negative attitude about the course and low self-esteem due to no one giving her the right support.
“When asking her where she would like to go on placement she had no idea. She knew she wanted to help people but not within the care sector. After a few suggestions, I offered her a placement at SAMH or CAB. On visiting SAMH and meeting the manager there, Nicola decided that she would like to start her placement with them.”
“After a few weeks Nicola was raving about her placement - she thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great news when the manager contacted Nicola to advise her to apply for the position that became available.
“It’s been great catching up with her again at the College, where she is enjoying her HND Legal Studies course and still working part-time at SAMH. She is now applying for University which is amazing!
“On behalf of NCL I wish her all the best in her future studies and career.”