How Emma went from horse racing to social care

Emma Baker. Health and social care management. Graduate July 2016. Neil Gibson

Having spent a large part of her life working in the glamorous world of horse racing, Emma Baker decided she wanted to do something different with her life.

And now, after focusing on achieving her dream of working with vulnerable people, the single mum of two, 44, from Abergavenny, is reaping the rewards of years of studying after getting a first class honours degree in Health and Social Care Management from the University of South Wales, and securing what she described as her ‘dream job’.

Horse-lover Emma spent 20 years working in horse breeding – travelling all over the world and mixing with some of the biggest names in the sport, including Sheikh Mohammed, owner of the internationally-famous Godolphin stables. She was also involved in developing the award winning Usk Valley Stud and Little Treasures Baby Shop, both based in Abergavenny.

Her lifelong learning continued through a ‘Preparing to Teach’ course at Coleg Gwent, through which she got involved with the Gateway Club in Abergavenny – a social movement for people who have learning disabilities.

“From there I decided it was time to have a go at doing what I’d always wanted to do,” Emma explained.

“I’d done some study with the Open University and wanted to go down the social care route, but wasn’t sure how I could achieve this.”

Having been in contact with USW about the possibility of doing social work courses, Emma learned about the Health and Social Care Management degree – which perfectly fitted her career aspirations.

“I’m a communicator. I’ve always wanted a job where you can lead and build relationships with staff and individuals, to get the best possible care for those who need it. I wanted to work across disciplines, using a variety of mixed approaches to do this,” she said.

“I met with the staff at USW, who expertly mapped my learning pathway so that I could get the skills needed to be able to do the job I wanted, and told me that my OU qualifications counted towards my degree. I couldn’t wait to get started.”

During her second and third years at USW, Emma carried out work placements at Monnow Vale Integrated health and social care facility in Monmouth, where she was able to experience first-hand how people in various roles, such as social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and district nurses, could work together to help service users in a more efficient way.

The experience – and what else she learned at USW - was key in Emma getting her current job.

“I got the role as Care & Support Lead of the North Monmouthshire dementia and enablement teams at Mardy Park Resource Centre in Abergavenny in March 2016, prior to completing my degree. In this role I can focus on developing relationship-based community care, the main focus of my university studies,” Emma added. “It’s a new way of providing community support, and something that I’m passionate about supporting and developing.”

And the job gives Emma the ability to ensure she has a good balance in her life.

“The university course was fantastic because it fitted in around being a single parent, and as this job is based so close to my home, I can support both my family and individuals in my local communities,” she says.

“Changing direction in life is never easy, but going back into education has been a great success for me, and I’d advise anyone to give it a go.”