by Emily Hicks
Young adult carer, Emily Hicks, aged 23, first came into contact with NIACE in 2011 when she was nominated by a college teacher for the Adult Learners’ Week awards. Despite not winning an award, NIACE was impressed by Emily’s dedication to learning and has sought her involvement in a number of projects since, which Emily sees as the stepping stone to her recent success.
After reading my Adult Learners’ Week nomination form, NIACE became interested in my story and was impressed by my dedication to learning. I was invited to write about my experiences as a young adult carer and to attend a policy seminar about young adult carers and learning. The experience of being at the policy seminar was brilliant – I was overwhelmed to be given the opportunity to have my say. I also had the honour of meeting Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, which was an utmost privilege.
My involvement with them didn’t end after the policy seminar. I am now a young adult carer representative on NIACE’s National Policy Forum – I go to meetings with senior officials from many government departments. I have also recently completed a work experience placement at NIACE, which was a short and sweet visit, but the experience I gained during my placement was something else. NIACE showed me how motivation and development alongside local action and government can change and inspire adults from all different backgrounds to actively engage in education. Everyone at the office was so enthusiastic about my learning. My placement gave me in-depth awareness about strategies to inspire adults to learn. By working with members of the development and research team and the media team, I learnt a lot about what NIACE stands for.
During this time I feel like I did real and challenging work. I analysed a recent amendment to the Children and Families Bill, which helped me gain a greater understanding of how national policies change and the effects on young and adult carers. I also had the opportunity to proofread a book that was due to be published on dyslexia and education, which gave me knowledge and understanding of how the publication process works. The highlight of my week was attending a meeting in London with my NIACE mentor and two other national charities – The Carers Trust and The Children’s Society. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss common work around learning and support for young adult carers and it allowed me to gain insight into how organisations can have different yet similar goals for young adult carers and how collaboration can make a huge difference to both young and adult carers in our society.
Once my work experience placement ended, I applied for and was successful in getting a job supporting people with learning difficulties and mental health needs – I think the enthusiasm and knowledge I have gained from working with NIACE helped me to get the job. Long-term, my plans and aspirations are to work with vulnerable young people – hopefully within an organisation that supports their transition from childhood to adulthood, to ensure that they get the best quality of life and the same equal opportunities as their peers.
Going into a workplace like NIACE was an enriching experience – people are so enthusiastic and strive to improve the lives of all adult learners. My placement left me with a great desire to help others and it has made me think about my career and where I want to go. I’m now fired up and excited about continuing my involvement in NIACE’s work and working to improve the lives of young adult carers.