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Apprentice of the Year, 46, says it’s never too late to start learning

A 46-year-old mental health support worker from Greater Manchester is celebrating after being named Health and Social Care Apprentice of the Year by Wigan & Leigh College.

Natasha Diallo, who is also known as Natalya, collected the award at a formal dinner and ceremony, which was hosted by TV presenter and magician Ben Hanlin.

The married mother of three, who is originally from Belarus but made her home in Wigan over 16 years ago, was selected to receive the accolade after completing a Level 2 Diploma in Care at Wigan and Leigh College.

She completed her studies while employed by the national health and social care charity Making Space, where she supports people at Wigan Accommodation Services supported living.

“I’ve worked with Making Space for three and a half years and I really love my job,” said Natasha. “My manager suggested the apprenticeship after I’d completed my Making Space training. I didn’t think it would be for me, but said I’d give it a shot – and I loved it.

“I’m so grateful to be chosen to win this award for doing something I enjoy. I want to say a big thank you to my manager at Making Space for supporting me to do the training, and of course to Wigan & Leigh College for the award.”

Jenny MacLeod is regional head of operations for Making Space. She said: “Natasha is a shining example of the amazing colleagues who work for Making Space – it’s never too late to learn and Natasha has shown passion and commitment in completing her apprenticeship alongside her everyday work.

“Her positivity and enthusiasm for working with the people we support is an inspiration to us all and I see a bright future for her.”

During the ceremony, the judges praised all the winners and the employers who support them, saying: “Our awards evening is an amazing occasion to celebrate the outstanding achievements of our apprentices who have excelled in their industries and it was fantastic to hear the inspirational and positive words from their employers about how well they have each done.

“I would also like to thank all of the employers who we work with to forge great business relationships. Their commitment to support and invest in the community and their workforce stands out not just at a regional level but on a national scale.”

Natasha works with people living with mental health issues, and is on hand throughout the night to help with any problems they may be facing. Despite her busy schedule, she says that the flexible nature of the apprenticeship meant that she was able to complete the qualification while caring for her family and working night shifts.

“I think a lot of people still think an apprenticeship involves sitting in a classroom one day a week with school or college leavers,” she said.

“Obviously there are tasks and assignments to complete, but you don’t have a fixed schedule. I’m not saying it doesn’t involve hard work! But all my work is downloaded and then I’ll share it with my supervisor and she’ll go through it and ask questions to make sure I’m clear about everything I’ve learned – it’s all very thorough. But I can work around my shifts and family time, and my supervisor always makes time to see me to go through my work and help with any issues I may be having.”

Natasha, who worked in a charity shop before taking up her role with Making Space, is now planning to continue to the Level 3 certificate in Health and Social Care.

“I’m so surprised with the way things have turned out,” she said. “I’m climbing the career ladder and may even be a manager myself one day. Sometimes you really don’t know what you’re capable of until you try it!

“I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, and if there’s one message I’d like to share it’s that you’re never too old to learn something new.”

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