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Norwich woman gets top award from Arlene Phillips

PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:38 01 July 2010

Piya Das, VQ Day learner of the Year

Piya Das, VQ Day learner of the Year

Steve Downes

A Norwich woman who is aiming to be a pilot after beating the odds to gain qualifications has spoken of her "honour" at receiving a prestigious award.

Piya Das, from Wilberforce Road, West Earlham, picked up the VQ Learner of the Year Award for the East of England from TV celebrity Arlene Phillips at a glitzy London ceremony.

A Norwich woman who is aiming to be a pilot after beating the odds to gain qualifications has spoken of her “honour” at receiving a prestigious award.

Piya Das, from Wilberforce Road, West Earlham, picked up the VQ Learner of the Year Award for the East of England from TV celebrity Arlene Phillips at a glitzy London ceremony.

Earlier this month, the Evening News told how the 23-year-old came to Norwich from India with her parents, Debabrata and Barnali, in October 2002 as her father studied for a PhD at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

At 16, Piya was sent to live with relatives at Luton, where she started and finished her GCSEs in six months. She then completed her A-levels in the standard two years at The Hewett School in Norwich.

She studied for a national diploma in electrical and electronic engineering at City College. On the course Piya was the only female, but she completed the course and went on to apply successfully for a place at Queen Mary, University of London, where she is awaiting the fourth year of her aerospace engineering degree, starting in October. At the end of the course she aims to join the RAF as a fighter pilot or an engineering officer.

She is currently unsure how she will finance the final year because her mother's visitor's visa has expired and her father has returned to India.

Piya has nowhere to stay in London because of a landlord dispute, and has a job cleaning for Serco at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

During university term-time from October, she plans to be in London during the week, before travelling to Norwich at weekends to work at the hospital.

The VQ Learner of the Year Awards, which were held at the Royal Horticulture Halls, are part of VQ Day, a nationwide celebration of people who have gained vocational qualifications.

Piya said: “It's such an honour to be named as the VQ Learner of the Year for the East of England. My vocational qualification has helped me to achieve so much already.

“I hope that this award would be a plus point to gain me entrance into the RAF as an officer. I'm really proud to be able to highlight the benefits of vocational learning and join in the VQ Day celebrations with the millions of others who gain vocational qualifications each year.”

David Lane, marketing and communications director at independent education foundation Edge, said: “It's an absolute pleasure to be able to honour someone like Piya. There are many paths to success and she is a fantastic example of how individuals can progress through the vocational route to achieve great things.”

For more information about VQ Day and the VQ Learner Awards, visit www.vqday.org.

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