A care home owner says doing free training has helped him run his business more efficiently, given him confidence and even been 'good fun.'
Rohana Yasaratna (54), says there are many parts of his job he can do more easily because of his studies at Uxbridge College, courses which are free under the European Social Fund (ESF).
He has been doing a Level 3 ITQ (Information Technology Qualification), and is also training to become an A1 Assessor - which means he will be able to assess people taking health and social care qualifications.
Both courses, part of pan London provision, are held at the Hayes Community Campus, with ITQ run by the College, and A1 by Quad Consultants.
Rohana, who owns and runs Edwin Lodge Residential Care Home in Wembley with his wife Tina, has four staff who give the home's four clients 24-hour care.
He said the information technology course had given him skills which made it easier to run his business.
He said: "I would really encourage people to do these courses - it really helps and it is good fun. You're never too old for studying. I'm 54 and I haven't finished - if there is any other course to do I will do it.
"It has helped me to run the business more smoothly and develop my mind. I now know how to get more information from the internet, use it for learning about care, make a form and keep up with legislation. Care plans are now done on a computer and I now use spreadsheets a lot."
The part-time ITQ course involves one class a week at college and coursework can be done on-line at home or at work through a system known as Moodle.
Rohana said: "I use Moodle to try to do some work; you can use it at night if you want to. I use it at midnight or 1am - at a care home you have to do a round at night to check on the clients, and instead of going to bed and getting up in the middle of the night, I would rather stay up and work."
The Assessor's course is also taught partly on-line and involves one class a month - in which care professionals not only work towards their qualifications but can pick up tips from one another.
Rohana said: "It is only a few hours taken up and we have learned quite a bit. I am very pleased I am doing the Assessor's course but it is not just about assessing people - you learn other things. You exchange ideas in the classroom about how other people run their homes. Our management has improved a lot since starting the course and we are educating our staff."
The course is already enabling him to train his own staff to a higher standard than previously, and once he is qualified he will be able to help train people working for other businesses.
Tina, who is also taking the Assessor's course, said: "Maybe in future we could use this as a business opportunity assessing for other organizations. I think there will be lots of other opportunities when we are qualified."
Rohana also says that the personal benefits of studying have been enormous. He began studying again in 2005 after a long break with an NVQ Level 4 in Management, which included the Registered Managers Award which he needed to run his home, and has never looked back.
He said: "I had not studied since 1981. It was difficult to start off with - nothing was going into my brain - it took me a long time to get back into it and it wasn't easy. At times you feel like giving up but you shouldn't - it is well worth sticking at it.
"Before I started studying I was bored, I did nothing but work. Now I can have a conversation about how to run a care home and people come to me for advice. Because I study I have got something to talk about. It has made me more confident as a person and as a businessman and given me a sense of achievement."
Teresa Cannon, Contract Manager for ESF and Train to Gain projects at Uxbridge College, said: "Rohana is a terrific example of someone who is benefitting from the free training on offer that too many people know nothing about. There isn't a catch - it is all about making sure staff in the UK have the right skills to maintain a healthy economy. We run a whole range of courses at Uxbridge College from customer service to training to become a personal fitness instructor, and we can provide pretty much anything needed by a business or member of staff. Just get in touch."
* For more information about these courses and training for all types of businesses contact Abs Shinhmar on 01895 853784 or Annette Gresley on 01895 853792.