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Mature student Nikki-Ann Wyatt is in the finals for the prestigious national Festival of Learning 2021 awards, after making an outstanding return to education following a motorbike accident. 

The 36-year-old from New Mills was forced to rethink her career as a top-flight pastry chef in Michelin starred restaurants following the crash which left her with life-changing muscle and nerve damage.  

Despite undergoing several operations and suffering constant pain, Nikki became determined to forge a new route into work and pursue her dream of going to university following an Access to Engineering course at Trafford College. 

Nikki is now studying at the University of Salford and considering a Masters in order to work in the field of Geotechnical Engineering. 

She said: “When I finally came to terms with the fact I would never be able to work in Michelin restaurants as a pastry chef again, I was quite down, but when I finally found what I wanted to achieve, it was worth all the extra hours of study. I’m happiest when I have a target to achieve, and my tutors certainly gave me that! It will mean so much to my husband and I when I graduate. I’m really excited about the potential of working in a job that can really bring about social change using the skills I’ll further in my civil engineering degree.” 

Nikki joins a clutch of national finalists from colleges and adult training providers from across England who will be judged by a panel of key learning and skills leaders, with the winner of the Outstanding Individual Learner of the Year announced at an online awards ceremony on July 6th 2021. 

Assistant Principal – Adult Skills and Apprenticeships for Trafford College, Joan Scott, said: “We are delighted Nikki-Ann has made the national finals of this prestigious national competition. Nikki-Ann is a shining example of the key elements of drive, resilience and determination in education. She has bravely tackled extraordinary challenges in her personal life to embrace each aspect of her learning to the full, which has resulted in a well-deserved and outstanding outcome. We are proud to have supported Nikki on her return journey through education and wish her the very best of luck in the final judging process.”  

Festival of Learning is the biggest celebration of lifelong learning in England. The campaign, which has been running since 1992, is led by Learning and Work Institute. It is supported by the Department for Education, NOCN, Education and Training Foundation, Skills and Education Group, City Lit and the WEA. 

Learning and Work Institute Chief Executive Stephen Evans said: “Lifelong learning can make such a difference to people’s lives, career prospects and communities. Over the last year, adult learning providers and practitioners have risen to the challenge of widening access to learning. Our Festival of Learning awards help to celebrate the transformative power of learning by recognising inspirational learners, tutors and providers. We hope that they help encourage and inspire many more adults to take part in learning.”