A beauty apprentice from Somerset has battled against dyslexia, won a national skills contest, started her own business, looked after a young child – and won this year’s Apprentice of the Year award.

Twenty-year-old Emma Rogers struggled at school but began to thrive when she enrolled on an NVQ level two beauty apprenticeship at Weston College. The Cheddar apprentice found that the balance of learning on the job and the support she got from the college allowed her to blossom.

“They just supported me more and helped me to get through the theory, because… you quickly fall behind if you’re not helped. It did an awful lot for me,” she said.

Emma had baby at the end of 2010, but returned to college just three months after giving birth to Charlie.

“A lot of people said ‘do you wish you didn’t have him so you could do more?’ But he’s really just inspired me to work even harder, so I don’t agree with that at all,” she said.

She completed her level two and moved on level three, working in at a top Bannatyne hotel and spa (owned by Duncan Bannatyne of Dragons’ Den) in between.

In 2011 Emma won her first UK skills competition and has since been shortlisted to represent the UK in Europe, which fuelled her desire to set up her own business.

She said: “I think I always had it at that back of my mind but I was just getting more successful and better at my job, and I was getting better than the people I was working with who had been training longer than me. I was getting so frustrated that I couldn’t use my skill to the full level that I wanted to.

“So about a year ago I started searching for premises and working two jobs to try to get the money so I could practise in my own way.”

Emma finally achieved her goal in November, opening her salon, Beauty by Emma, in Wedmore.

She says: “This feels like the start of my life. I’ve not hit my goal yet — I’ve so many. I want to specialise in skincare, be really specialised in my beauty therapy career, but then I also want to do other things like helping younger people by promoting education.”

This latest ambition, she said, is fairly recent and is a result of the respect she has for “what the people around me have done for me. I think I can do that for a lot of other people.”

She said she was “really pleased” to have won the Adult Learners’ Week award.

Graham Hasting-Evans, NOCN managing director, said, “Emma’s inspirational story is proof that with hard work and determination apprenticeships really do work.

“When learners are given real hands-on experience at the same time as learning the theory, they can go on to achieve great things.

“I’m sure Emma’s former employer, Duncan Bannatyne, will be very impressed with her tenacity, as I am. I hope she goes on to open many more salons — who knows? Maybe one day she’ll be in competition with the Dragon himself.”

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