Juggling two jobs, one as a cleaner and another as a receptionist, as well as being a mother of two boys meant that life was busy for Mariana Ghertan.
Deep down she had always loved looking after people and had a passion to build a career that involved helping others. When her husband encouraged her to follow her dreams and do a healthcare apprenticeship, she was initially sceptical.
“I’m from Romania and hadn’t completed any further education after finishing school,” said Mariana, 36, who lives with her family in Enfield.
“I moved to the UK 17 years ago, and as English isn’t my first language I was worried that would impact my ability to do a course or apprenticeship. I was scared of change but my husband pushed me to follow my dreams and encouraged me to go for it.”
Mariana enrolled on a Healthcare Support Worker Level 3 Apprenticeship at North Middlesex University Hospital with Capital City College Training (CCCT) in March 2020 having gained her Level 2 while working at Person Centred Day Opportunities in Enfield.
Apprenticeships are paid jobs that are available to all ages and involve four days at work and one day of study towards a recognised qualification, which Mariana undertook at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).
“I started just before lockdown and so I only had a couple of days of study at CONEL before it changed to home study, and on the other days I was working in the hospital caring for people, which I loved,” she said.
However, Mariana faced significant setbacks during her apprenticeship including contracting COVID twice and losing her grandfather who had brought her up with her mother in Romania.
“The first time I had COVID was over the Christmas period before the vaccinations. My grandad also died of old age while I was recovering and my husband lost a cousin due to COVID, and we were unable to attend their funerals because of lockdown,” she said.
“My breathing was very bad and my family were all very worried. I shut myself away in the bedroom in order to protect my husband and sons. It was an extremely difficult time, which resulted in me taking four weeks off my studies.”
Mariana caught COVID again nearly a year later, which resulted in her missing another three weeks. And on top of that her mother was tragically killed in a car crash aged just 59.
‘I received the phone call to tell me about my mum just before my exams. I was completely broken and told my tutor that I was going to quit the course and leave work,” said Mariana.
“However, my tutor was the most incredible support. She encouraged me not to give up and offered me more time. I spoke to my husband and sons who had seen how much hard work I had put in. They said that my mum was proud of me and would have wanted me to finish, so I did.
“Working in a hospital would not have been possible for me without an apprenticeship. If it wasn’t for the amazing support of my tutor, my husband and my sons, I would never have stuck at it.”
Mariana took some time off after completing her apprenticeship to help with family arrangements back in Romania and now hopes to train to become a nurse.
‘My Level 3 qualification has provided me with enough UCAS points to do nursing,” she said.
“I feel very fortunate to have been given the support to follow my dreams.”
Mariana’s achievements earned her an Excellence Award from Capital City College Group (CCCG), which includes CCCT and CONEL along with City and Islington College and Westminster Kingsway College.
According to the Health Foundation, 314,000 more full-time equivalent NHS staff will be needed over and above existing vacancies in England by 2030/31.