The aim of this research was to explore why workers in health and social services embarked on a Certificate in Community Care Practice and the extent to which they felt knowledge learnt related to their every‐day work practice. The objective was to indicate how useful more academic courses are for health and social care staff, and to find out the kinds of barriers to practicing theory learnt in the classroom students face in their ‘real world’ of work. Data was collected from 25 mature students (over half were between the ages of 41–50 years), 3 of whom were men from a range of professional backgrounds including; support staff working in residential and domiciliary services and informal (unpaid) carers for people with learning disabilities, mental health difficulties as well as older people. Quantitative (an adapted questionnaire) and qualitative (focus group session which was an integral part of classroom learning about research methodology) methods were employed. Data was analysed using SPSS and thematic analysis. Findings indicated that the main motivators for study was to gain a qualification and for personal development. Students reported their increased desire to link theory learnt which they found highly relevant to their everyday practice, but organisational barriers sometimes precluded them from doing so. The paper ends with policy and practice recommendations.