When Diane Howells’ husband died of cancer she had no idea her loss would lead her to start a new career in social care.
The grandmother of seven moved from the Midlands to live with her daughter in north London following the death of her husband Stephen in May 2013 aged 56.
She had also been made redundant from her job at Tesco after 23 years with the retailer and was unsure where her life was heading until she applied for an apprenticeship.
In spring 2016 she started a health and social care apprenticeship at GlenPat Homes in Winchmore Hill with the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).
GlenPat Homes provides a residential care home and a purpose-built block of flats along with care support for people with learning disabilities.
Mrs Howells, 60, said: “I had no background in health or social care, but had spent a lot of time caring for Stephen and raised my family and thought it was something I could do.
“I enjoyed going to college and all the training, and learnt so much. At first, I thought I am going to be the oldest one there, but it didn’t matter. There were people of all ages and backgrounds – young mums and some men wanting a career change.
“It opened my eyes, and showed me there are so many things I can do, and it’s given me so much more confidence. The training I had was excellent, and I still use my portfolio of coursework from college to refer to.”
Mrs Howells was taken as a support worker at GlenPat homes towards the end of her apprenticeship and promoted to a more senior role in her first year of full employment.
She happily admitted to never getting bored in her new career, which she enjoys and finds both challenging and rewarding every day.
Mrs Howells added: “I work with a lovely team and the job is so varied. It’s given me a new lease of life. I just wish I had done it when I was younger!
“Stephen would have said do what you want to do now, and it’s all worked out wonderfully. He would have been very proud.”
Mrs Howells was the first apprentice to be placed at GlenPat Homes by CONEL with the care provider now looking to train more staff with the College.
Theo Akem, Services Manager at GlenPat Homes, said: “Diane has a passion for working in care and has excelled in her job. She took to the role very quickly and is now leading her own team. She us one of the best staff I have here.”