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Apprentice who is blind in one eye wants to inspire others to consider apprenticeships

In the week of the first anniversary of the launch of the Welsh Government’s Disability Action Plan for Apprenticeships, a partially sighted Waste Management apprentice from North Wales is encouraging others with disabilities to consider apprenticeships, after refusing to allow his visual impairments and dyslexia affect his career success.

Andrew Bennett, 51, from Kinmel Bay in North Wales, found a new start at Bryson Recycling in Abergele after serving his community service on the site and is now studying towards his Level 4 qualification.

Andrew said: “At first, I saw it as a service I had to complete and didn’t consider that I’d find a career at Bryson, but I soon realised that I enjoyed helping the customers who visit the centre, and I became really interested in learning more about the technical side of the industry.”

Andrew is dyslexic and has sight impairments, meaning he’s blind in his left eye.

He said: “My eyesight hasn’t been an issue in the workplace before, and I’m also dyslexic, which makes it hard to process long-form written documents with heavy information.

“Day-to-day, my role is really varied and no two days are the same. I find that I prefer learning on the job as it suits my personality, and I like the hands-on elements of training on-site.

“The work is challenging, but always interesting – alongside customer service skills, we also have to stay up to speed with legislation on responsible waste management, destinations for waste disposal, and regulations for sorting hazardous waste.

“As part of my progression through my apprenticeship, I’m taking on supervisor responsibilities whenever my supervisor is off duty, and I’m hoping to progress to a full-time supervisor in the future.”

“When I first started, I was worried that my eyesight would be a barrier working in a complex environment, but it hasn’t been an issue.

Andrew received the support required when reading through administrative documents and is given extra time to complete the written elements of his apprenticeship studies.

“For others who are considering the different routes into work, my advice would be to consider apprenticeships. My employer has been supportive with my disabilities and the role is rewarding as you can learn all the skills you need while earning a wage and getting relevant, interesting experience.” he emphasised.

Dan McCabe, Site Supervisor at Bryson Recycling, said; “Andrew’s disabilities have not been a problem in the workplace. He’s overcome any barriers to learning that may have been in his way to become a curtail and trustworthy, member of the team.

“It was an easy decision to keep him on after his community service, as it’s been really refreshing to have such a keen apprentice rise through the ranks and progress so quickly, taking a genuine interest in his work.

“Andrew’s great with the customers, but he’s also a really keen learner. Our apprentices need to have a technical understanding of everything from appropriate waste drainage to hazardous waste disposal, and it’s the kind of knowledge that you just can’t get without the tailored training an apprenticeship can offer. Apprenticeships help us to thrive as a business, and the fact that we can also give back to the community by offering people a second chance in life is a real bonus.”

Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, said: “Andrew is an excellent example of someone who has really benefitted from an apprenticeship to gain the skills needed to get ahead in life. I’d urge anyone who is thinking about their next steps to consider an apprenticeship as a serious option.

It’s been a year since the Disability Action Plan for Apprenticeships was introduced and, as a government, we’re proud to have made real progress Our Inclusive Apprenticeships Working Group is well established and is working closer than ever before with employers and training providers to ensure apprenticeships in Wales are fully accessible.

“Apprenticeships are a proven route to a successful, sustainable career and bringing more diversity is imperative to reflect the society in which we live. Our commitment to create a fair and equal Wales gives individuals equality of opportunity regardless of disability or health condition, and offers businesses a wider range of skilled workers.

“We’re proud to see the steps being taken by employers across Wales to offer more opportunities to disabled apprentices, which will contribute to a more accepting and inclusive society.”

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund. Almost all job sectors have apprenticeship programmes and the majority of apprenticeships can be made accessible for people with additional needs.

For more information about becoming an apprentice search Working Wales Apprenticeships or call 0800 028 4844. For employers, search Skills Gateway for Business for more information on the Apprenticeship Programme.