Richard Healey Born: 1956.

Job: Finance director of The Learning and Skills Council.

Attended: Newport College,1982-84.

Qualifications: level 1 of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

Richard Healey studied at an adult education class in Cardiff where he got a grade B in A-level accounts before moving on to Newport College.

He became finance director of the LSC last year. The organisation had a budget in 2005 of pound;8.8 billion. He had previously been the LSC's director of financial innovation and was in charge of developing financial policy, improving finance systems and coordinating professional training.

Before arriving at the LSC, Mr Healey worked for the export credits guarantee department, South Wales Electricity and Gwent College of Higher Education.

All of the teachers were committed, patient and very helpful. But the main teacher I remember is Dave Hobbs who had played guitar for Scritti Politti! Newport College was in a purpose-built modern building and was light airy and welcoming.

The combination of the A-level and the level 1 course gave me both the qualifications and the confidence to go on to higher education.

I went from being a 26-year- old with no real idea of what I wanted to do to being a 32-year-old qualified accountant.

There is no doubt that my experience of both night school and then the FE college equipped me very well for the later studies. Apart from the obvious boost that the professional qualification gave me, it was the huge surge in self-confidence I got from great teaching that really made the difference.

FE gave me that opportunity and I have been very grateful.

I had planned to work as an accountant after I qualified which I did do, but to my immense pride I was asked back to work as a part-time lecturer which I did for several years.

I do keep in touch with two people who I studied with and, if I had my time at college again, I would have gone at 18, not 26. But it worked perfectly for me and my best memory is that liberating feeling of doing something just for me.

My worst memory was the feeling that there were just so many exams to pass before any of them meant anything.

The best advice I was given at college was: "Answer the question as set not the one you would have liked to have been."

But the best thing about college was getting through the 18 exams required to qualify. My best time since has been taking my boat the entire length of the Thames from Lechlade to Limehouse.

Richard Healey was talking to Shekhar Bhatia

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