Rab and Niko prove it’s never too late to learn new tricks

Background or age is no bar to changing the course of your life, says Julie McCran

Two Edinburgh College students were recognised for their achievements at the SQA 2014 Star Awards. Picture: Toby Williams

It is never too late to change your life direction through further education, no matter your background or age. Edinburgh College is dedicated to getting people back on track with the opportunity of a fresh start and a chance to realise their ambitions.

Last week two Edinburgh College students were recognised for their achievements at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) 2014 Star Awards. Their inspirational stories give an insight into just how varied and diverse the student body can be in the further education sector.

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One of the nominees, Rab Libberton, is a shining example of the benefits that lifelong learning can bring, not just to the individual student, but to the whole learning environment. Rab joined Edinburgh College last year after a life-changing injury forced him to refocus his career.

Following an apprenticeship, he had spent 26 years as a sheet metal worker and welder in Leith, a job that he loved. In 2001, Rab damaged vertebrae in his neck and had to undergo surgery. Following this injury he was forced to take redundancy under doctor’s orders.

During his recovery Rab turned his hand to working with computers. He built his first PC in 2002, developed his skills further through repairing computers for friends and family and grew skilled enough to start a small business on the side. He decided to take this new found passion and ability and cement it through an NQ Entry to Computing course at Edinburgh College.

With his rich life experience behind him, Rab proved an invaluable addition to the class. Rab was able to share the learning experiences from his previous studies and career with his younger classmates, bringing a refreshing outside view to the classroom. He was also happy to help his classmates, proving especially able to help the autistic members of his class communicate their ideas.

Rab has now begun to study at HND level and hopes to one day be a computing lecturer, using his talents to encourage others to engage in education. Rab’s attitude, accomplishment and success led to him being highly commended in the Lifelong Learner Candidate of the Year Award at the Star Awards.

Rab’s fellow nominee Nikodem Sadlowski came to the UK from Poland in 2005. When he arrived in London, he couldn’t speak English, and worked hard in a series of low-paid jobs. Not one to rest on his laurels, he worked his way up to being manager of his own catering business, before moving to Edinburgh to seek a better life for himself and his family. Now he is studying for an HNC Early Education and Childcare at Edinburgh College with the intention of fulfilling a life ambition to work with children and make a difference to families in need.

Growing up with deaf parents, Niko left home as a teenager as he wanted to reduce the financial burden on his family. His experience of sign language triggered his interest in supporting people with additional needs and their families.

Recently his own son was diagnosed with autism. Now, Niko’s is also taking part in the More Than Words training programme for parents of children with autistic spectrum disorder.

As well as helping his son reach his communication potential, Niko is building tools to enable him to help other families. He already volunteers with the Action Group charity for people with support needs and learning disabilities.

Niko’s determination, his positive influence on his classmates, and his dedication to making a difference helped him achieve a highly commended award in the College Candidate of the Year category at the Star awards. Niko’s achievements were also recognised by Edinburgh College at the start of June when he was awarded Student of the Year for Health, Wellbeing and Social Sciences at our FE Awards Ceremony.

Further education exists to help people succeed, whether they are taking the first steps on their career path, starting new lives or are changing careers. Whatever their background, we support people to make the most of their talents.

• Julie McCran is vice principal, quality, performance and the student experience at Edinburgh College, www.edinburghcollege.ac.uk