A former factory worker who decided she wanted a fresh challenge has proved that it’s never too late to learn.

In fact Lynda Jones has gone one step further by earning the title of “Learner of the Year” with her new company.

She was presented with a bouquet and trophy at the annual Celebration of Achievement for Pendine Park’s Smartcare Teaching Centre, held at Glyndwr University’s Catrin Finch Centre, becoming the first winner of the award.

Lynda, from Penycae, worked for 22 years at the Morgan Technical Ceramics factory in Ruabon but six years ago decided to enter the caring profession.

“I decided I wanted to do something more fulfilling,” she said.

She started work as a care practitioner at the Hillbury House Care Home in Wrexham, part of the Pendine Park group, and took to it immediately, establishing a rapport with the elderly residents.

“I really enjoy the work,” she said.

She was determined to better herself, taking advantage of all training that was offered, and at this year’s ceremony was presented with her Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management.

MC Chris Hodge, who is Pendine’s officer responsible for delivering Essential Skills Wales, said that choosing a Learner of the Year from the 146 people who had gained qualifications through Smartcare this year had been an extremely difficult task.

But he said that Lynda, whose daughters Amy and Laura also work at Hillbury House, had “shown a commitment to delivering quality care to a high standard with a person-centred approach”.

“Her passion for the role can be seen in the way the residents respond to her,” he said.

Lynda, he continued, was always trying to learn more so that she could gain insight into the needs and wishes of the residents and was even prepared to attend training on her days off.

Lynda, who was surprised to receive the honour, said she had no regrets about her change of career.

“I like to think I might have made a difference to someone’s life,” she said.

The trophy was presented to her by the Mayor of Wrexham, Councillor Barbara Roxburgh, who said that as a former nurse herself she appreciated the work being done by those in the field of care.

Among the others award winners was Clare McCarthy, 24.

At the age of 19 and having been out of work for some time Clare was somewhat reluctant when it was suggested that she consider working in the caring profession.

“I’d never done anything like that before and I didn’t know what to expect,” she said.

It was with justifiable pride therefore that she received her Level 3 Diploma in health and social care.

After her visit to the Jobcentre Clare began work as a carer at the Gwern Alyn Home in Wrexham, part of the Pendine Park organisation – and she is still there today

“I didn’t think I would enjoy it but now I wouldn’t change my job. I am really happy there,” she said.

Gwern Alyn has about 30 elderly residents and Clare enjoys the rapport she has with them.

Her sights are now set on gaining her Level 5 certificate, but she is in no hurry to do so as she feels she needs to build up her experience with the additional responsibilities she now has as a Level 3 practitioner.

Meanwhile, a long-serving employee of Pendine Park has continued to expand her knowledge and skills.

Sheila George, 59, from Rhostyllen, has worked for the company for 24 years and as housekeeping manager is highly regarded by her colleagues and residents.

To enable her to better understand the needs of the residents, however, she decided to broaden her qualifications and so undertook further training, attaining a Level 3 certificate in health and social care.

“There’s always something new going on and with  some of the residents suffering from dementia it helps to be able to understand their conditions better,” she said.

Smartcare manager Ann Farr said: “We continue going from strength to strength and now have a team of assessors supporting learners who are working with people in residential care at a number of different establishments across the region.

“We have learners who are all keen to progress their careers and gaining a recognised work-based qualification is an important step. We have young learners and some who are more mature.

“They are taking the knowledge they learn back to their care and residential homes and using their new skills to enrich and improve the lives of the vulnerable people in their care.”

“I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved not just in the last 12 months but over the last five years.”