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Twins surprise sets mum on new course

Barely out of her teens, Louise Milligan feared she was having a heart attack. Struggling for breath and suffering chest pains at work, she was rushed to hospital.

At the hospital, doctors discovered she had pneumonia and pleurisy and, to her astonishment, was 11 weeks pregnant with twins.

Until that August two years ago, the trainee shop manager from Dumfries had been impressing bosses at Farmfoods and looking forward to a career in retail management. She had enrolled on a modern apprenticeship in management and been promoted to manager of the frozen food chain's lead store in Carlisle.

Now, Louise is the proud mother of identical boys, Kieran and Konner, and was named Young Learner of the Year last month by Allan Wilson, the deputy minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, at a ceremony in Edinburgh, organised by Learndirect Scotland.

She was nominated by Minerva People, a Learndirect-branded centre in Dumfries, where staff were amazed at how much she achieved and coped with in a short time. In 18 months, Louise got married, bought a house, had twins, recovered from serious illness, became a part-time worker and volunteer, helped to set up a twins club and completed her modern apprenticeship in management.

But long days working in Carlisle did not fit in with motherhood. So, although she had completed her apprenticeship, Louise was looking for a new career.

"When you have children, it just changes your outlook," she says. "I would see parents in the street not giving their children any attention and it would upset me."

So she decided to help set up a parents and twins club and began volunteering a few hours a week in the learning support unit of a secondary school.

Six months ago, she gave it up to work for the Lockerbie-based firm Care Visions. She now works 24-hour shifts as a foster parent in a respite setting, helping two teenagers who have suffered abuse or neglect. The job may seem daunting, with overnight stays away from her sons, but she relishes the challenge, she says.

"The kids are absolutely fantastic. It's great fun. I work in a crisis unit so, although they have lessons in the morning, we get to do things in the afternoon. And it means I get to spend six days with my children. So it's the ideal job for me."

Learning has made Louise more confident and her current aim is a career in child care. She hopes to begin an Open University degree in social care, specialising in child and youth studies, if she can find funding. This is despite leaving school with no intention to study, even though she achieved four Highers, including maths.

"When I was at school you were told you had to go to university, and everyone in my year went to university," she explains.

"I just wanted to get out and get a job. I didn't think getting a degree was important.

"Now I realise it is very important. I'm glad I did the apprenticship. It's put me in the mood to do more. I've got the learning bug."

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