Sima Jethwa

“It’s been a sacrifice but it was worth it”

When the language barrier proved difficult for India-born Sima Jethwa, she dedicated herself to studying and workplace learning.

Sima moved from India to Leicester with her family in 2002 when she was 17 years old. It was a culture shock, especially as they didn’t speak English in some parts of India. She had studied the Hindi and Guajarati languages.  When she came to England it was difficult for her to communicate with others.

“One day I decided to explore the city centre, but when I got on the bus I couldn’t communicate with the bus driver – it was really difficult,” says Sima. “I realised I needed to learn English.”

In 2003, Sima enrolled onto an English course at Leicester College. As she slowly got to grips with the language, she took several business management courses too. After this she went on to study business and management at De Montfort University and completed her degree in 2016.

“It was my dream come true. On my graduation day I was over the moon and so happy all my hard work had paid off. For 13 years, I focused on my education and nothing else. I spent all my spare time and weekends in the library studying, sacrificed many things such as cultural festivals, family time and holidays.”

Back in 2003, alongside learning English, Sima started working part time at Jacobs Bakery as packer. “It was hard work fitting in my studies alongside a job, but I needed to study to get to where I am now,” explains Sima.  “After coming to England, I realised that education is the key to success.”

In addition to her studies outside of work, Sima took part in workplace learning offered by the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union to improve her literacy and numeracy skills. Sima’s managers could see how committed she was to learning and nominated her for a certificate of achievement from the Festival of Learning (an annual event celebrating learning across England).

After a few years as a packer at Jacobs Bakery, Sima became a machine operator and then took on responsibility for running a production line. She’s also a qualified first aider. Since completing her degree, she is being trained up by her employer to become a team manager. “I am really enjoying my new role at the moment and looking forward to exploring new opportunities,” adds Sima.

Sima’s managers and the union have been supportive of her learning, including letting her take time off during exams. She also based her university dissertation on the work of her team managers who supported her with the project. Sima says that her future ambition is to do a master’s degree in business and management.