Newtownbutler woman, Josie Doran, took an unconventional route to achieving a First Class Honours Degree in Social Work.

Leaving full time education and entering the workforce at the age of just 15, it was only when Josie turned 38 and enrolled in the Foundation Degree in Science in Health and Social Care that set off a love of learning which has helped her progress to her role as Gateway Manager within the WHSCT.

Josie joined a panel of Health and Social Care Professionals at the recent “Who Cares? We Do!” event held at South West College’ Erne Campus in Enniskillen and she spoke very candidly to the group, inspiring them with her story of achievement, and her passion for the field of social work.

Josie’s new career path came about unexpectedly and her association with South West College was formed during an Open Day at the college which her daughter Lisa was attending to consider her own options. Lisa was interested in joining the Heath and Social Care Foundation Degree and while speaking to the lecturing staff, Lisa encouraged her mum to join her on the course. The following September both Mum and Daughter found themselves enrolled on the course.

Speaking about her return to Higher Education as a mature learner, Josie said:

“I have no regrets about going back to study for a Foundation Degree in Health and Social Care at the age of 38. For those who are considering returning as a mature learner, my advice is to just go for it! Within the Health and Social Care profession, working patterns are flexible.

As a mature learner, you may be holding down a job and have family commitments, but there are night shifts, part-time hours, and weekend shifts that can help you balance your responsibilities. When you qualify, there will be working patterns that you can make work for your life. Life can't stop for your studies, but managing everything as a mature learner is definitely possible.”

The passion for learning didn’t end there, Lisa and Josie both progressed to the Ulster University BSc Social Work Degree at the Dungannon Campus. Lisa is now based in Australia, having completed an extra qualification to allow her to practice as a Social Worker in a large school there, while closer to home, Josie has progressed to become a manager within the Family and Childcare Team within the Western Health and Social Care Trust - demonstrating exactly how dynamic a degree in social work can be.

Reflecting on her studies at South West College, Josie commended the college for delivering a ‘straightforward’ programme, providing her with the academic skills and knowledge that allowed her to progress to the degree. Josie added;

“When I signed up for my Social Work Degree, I was in a room with people who came from very educated backgrounds. Some already held degrees in other disciplines. I soon learned that the only person holding me back was myself.

It turned out that the skills I had learned during my Foundation Degree had set me up well when it came to academic writing and referencing. I graduated with First Class Honours”

In her presentation to students, Josie also highlighted that being able to learn locally has benefits that they probably won’t have realised yet.

“The small class groups at South West College mean that you have a one-to-one relationship with your tutors. They take a personal interest in your education and your well-being. You might bump into your tutors many years from now in the local shop and they will remember you, be genuinely interested in how you are getting on and be proud of what you have achieved. I don’t think you get that experience in a larger setting”

Answering some of the attendees’ questions on Social Work, Josie spoke about the flexibility of shift work, and how you will always find a fit for you, be it working with Children, Elderly People or Young Offenders, the opportunities are endless.

“The appreciation of Social Workers within settings such as GP Surgeries and Schools is growing, and the opportunities for a diverse and enjoyable career are out there for anyone who feels that Social Work is a career for them. I have never regretted my decision. Not for a single second.”

If you are interested in a career in Social Work and would like to follow in Josie’s footsteps you can find out more and apply now using the links below.