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Creative designer with autism attributes his apprenticeship to career success

Following the first anniversary of the launch of the Welsh Government’s Disability Action Plan for Apprenticeships, an award-winning 26-year-old apprentice from Thornhill, Cardiff, praises his apprenticeship for helping to turn his dream of a career in the creative industry into a reality.

In 2017, Thomas Watkins achieved a Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Creative and Digital Media (Interactive Media Pathway) while working for White Hart Multimedia, a company that specialises in corporate video production.

Two years on, he’s now completed his apprenticeship and has secured a role as a lead designer at Caerphilly-based sports teamwear company Belief Sports.

Thomas said: “After I finished my apprenticeship, I started to look for roles where I could use my creative skills. I knew I wanted to be a designer so once I’d finished at White Hart Multimedia I did some freelance design work until I was confident enough to apply for a permanent role.

“I came across a role at Belief Sports, a company that create and design bespoke sports teamwear across the UK and globally. I was offered the job as a designer and I haven’t looked back since.”

Named the 2018 Creative Industries Apprentice of the Year at the Quality Skills Alliance Awards in Cardiff, Thomas works in a small team designing the graphics for touch and traditional rugby and football teams’ sportwear across the world.

Living with an autistic spectrum disorder hasn’t been an issue in the workplace and to help with his confidence, Thomas receives on-going support when communicating to employees and clients.

“I was worried that my disability would affect my progression, but it hasn’t stopped me getting to where I want to be. Day-to-day I work on multiple projects, working closely with the senior manager. I am given the flexibility to push forward with my own ideas and I’m using the skills I learnt throughout my apprenticeship to tackle problems with creative thinking,” Thomas added.

“Completing my apprenticeship was one of my greatest achievements in my professional life and I am proud of my progression. One day I’m hoping to work on projects that have a positive impact on people’s lives.”

Mason Najmi, Managing Director at Belief Sports, said: “Thomas joined the team earlier this year and we couldn’t be more pleased with the contribution he’s made to the team. His creative flair is exactly what we needed to inject some fresh ideas into our products. His disability wasn’t and hasn’t been a cause for concern and when we hired him, we made sure that he has access to any additional support he needs.

Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, said: “Thomas is an excellent example of someone who has really benefited 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.”

apprentices, which will contribute to a more accepting, 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 or call 03000 6 03000 for more information on the Apprenticeship Programme.