Celebrating Exceptional Talent
Three City & Guilds learners explain how they overcame physical, financial and personal challenges to unlock their potential.
11 October 2012
Three City & Guilds learners explain how they overcame physical, financial and personal challenges to unlock their potential – and win prestigious awards.
City & Guilds has been awarding Medals for Excellence to outstanding learners for over 100 years. The Medals recognise people who have shown an inspirational determination to succeed through their learning, often overcoming barriers in the process.
When Hirantha Rajapaksha was 11 years old, his uncle’s car broke down in his Sri Lankan village. Intrigued at how a mechanic fixed the fault, Hirantha was inspired to become a fully trained motor vehicle engineer.
Twelve years later, he graduated with a City & Guilds Advanced Diploma in Motor Vehicle Engineering. He’s since been awarded a City & Guilds Medal for Excellence, and was named International Learner of the Year at the Lion Awards 2012 - City & Guilds’ most prestigious awards ceremony and the culmination of the Medals for Excellence programme.
Hirantha has gone to enormous lengths to achieve his dreams. With the backing of his father, a farmer, and the village bank, he managed to borrow enough money to fund his dream. He then travelled eight hours a day from his village to Colombo to study, whilst working towards his apprenticeship at Toyota Sri Lanka.
And his development hasn’t stopped there; he has since progressed at Toyota to become a Management Trainer/Service Advisor, and has even developed a new mobile tool for tightening clipper pistons, which he plans to patent. Speaking about his plans for the future, Hirantha is keen to inspire others to develop their skills; he wants to ‘open my own City & Guilds training centre to support students from my village.’
Back in the UK, 21-year-old legal secretary Kerri Kerby is also a City & Guilds Medal for Excellence winner with a clear determination to succeed.
Kerri is registered blind in one eye and has 20% vision in the other. However she never let this stand in her way. She took the ILEX Diploma for Legal Secretaries course at Oxford & Cherwell Valley College, before going on to work for Withy King in Oxford.
‘When I’m sitting at the computer it causes massive eye strain and headaches but the college bought an expensive screen magnifier programme,’ she says, ‘which meant I could see what the other students were seeing.’
The diploma is an intensive one-year course, but Kerri completed it in just seven months. How did she manage that? ‘Lots of studying,’ she laughs, ‘and lots of hard work.’
Fellow medallist Jeya Dhushyanthan has similarly overcome significant challenges – but just like Hirantha and Kerri, he hasn’t let anything stand in his way. Also from Sri Lanka, he moved to the UK to study accounting and finance. After university, he couldn’t find a job in finance and so decided to stay at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), where he worked during his studies.
Jeya was put forward for KFC’s apprenticeship programme, and took the City & Guilds Advanced Apprenticeship in Hospitality and Catering. ‘I was honoured to win the Medal for Excellence. My area manager told me I’d been nominated for the commitment and application I’d shown in my studies. English isn’t my first language, but by working hard I was able to progress.’
Now an Assistant Restaurant General Manager, Jeya wants to work his way up to Restaurant Manager. ‘If you really want something,’ he says, ‘you need to try your hardest.’