This study examined the approaches to learning of a cohort (n = 76) of National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Care Award candidates using the Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students. The NVQ candidates were support workers (SWs) (sometimes called care assistants) employed in United Kingdom (UK) care homes for older people. The aim was to identify SWs' approaches to learning and to determine whether or not a preparatory six-week College-based course had any impact on these approaches. The findings were encouraging. The course had a positive impact with a statistically significant increase in orientation towards a deep learning approach, which is associated with desirable learning outcomes as well as self-directed and lifelong learning skills. The UK government recognises that lifelong learning enables people to continually develop their talents, thereby enhancing local communities and contributing to a civilised, cohesive society. In a health care environment, adopting a deep approach is likely to be beneficial. Those who use evidence to inform practice, who are able to relate elements of what they are taught to their working experiences and who are able to adapt to meet new challenges, are more Likely to enhance their practice and become more effective carers. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.