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Employer referral service signs up 500th apprentice in Wales

Apprentices Callum Ackery and Caitlyn Sheldon with (from left) Swansea ITeC managing director Helen Necrews, NTfW operations director Jeff Protheroe Tech-Wales co-directors Adrian Williams and Michael Price, and Tech-Wales co-directors Adrian Williams and Michael Price.

A team appointed to make it easier for employers to engage with the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship Programme to upskill their workforce has just signed up its 500th apprentice.

The National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) Apprenticeships Team supports businesses across Wales in employing apprentices and encourages the recruitment of young people into sectors of national or regional importance.

Funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund, the team works closely with employers and interested stakeholders across Wales to handle all Apprenticeship enquiries.

The team identifies an employer’s needs and which Apprenticeship framework and pathway are required before passing a referral to learning providers best placed to deliver in specific sectors. The employer then decides which provider they want to work with.

The 500th apprentice milestone was achieved when Port Talbot-based Tech-Wales recruited Caitlyn Sheldon, 20 and Callum Ackery, 24, at the same time. Both are working towards an IT, Software, Web and Telecoms Professionals Apprenticeship delivered by Swansea ITeC.

Tech-Wales provides business IT support, telecoms and cloud computing services to small and medium sized businesses across South Wales and the Midlands.

Director Adrian Williams said Caitlyn and Callum are the company’s first apprentices and he is delighted with them. During the Covid-19 lockdown, both apprentices worked from home and received virtual training from the company via Microsoft Teams.

“We like to develop our people in the way that we work and, now we are coming out of lockdown, both Caitlyn and Callum are able to hit the ground running, which is just as well as the company is busier than before Covid-19,” he explained.

“We didn’t know what to expect when recruiting our first apprentices, but it has worked out really well. The service we have had from the NTfW Apprenticeships Team and Swansea ITeC has been great.”

Callum, who lives in Port Talbot, achieved a degree in Urban Dance at East London University before returning to Wales to find a job. Despite taking a college course in IT, it took him more than two years to secure the vacancy for an apprentice software developer at Tech-Wales.

“I’m really grateful that I can learn and develop with Tech-Wales who are such a nice, welcoming company to work for,” said Callum, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“I want to progress in software and app development to be the best I can be. Once you have the skills, you can go anywhere in the world to work, which is something I would like to do in the future.”

Caitlyn, who works with the IT support team and lives in Bridgend, left school with ‘A’ levels but with little idea about a future career. After attending college, she tried a couple of jobs and achieved a Foundation Apprenticeship before joining Tech-Wales.

“I have always been interested in IT and I love my job,” she said. “In this type of environment, there is a lot of freedom to focus on hardware, software or working with customers who call in with a range of different problems.

“My ambition is to progress to a Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4) and see where that takes me with this company. An Apprenticeship is the best thing for me because I enjoy learning whilst earning a living.

“I think schools should definitely do more to promote Apprenticeships rather than just focusing on university and college because today’s employers want you to have work experience.”

Helen Necrews, Swansea ITeC’s managing director, worked closely with Tech-Wales on the recruitment of Caitlyn and Callum and tailoring their Apprenticeship framework to the company’s needs.

“It’s really nice to get a referral through the NTfW after an employer has expressed an interest in recruiting an apprentice,” she added. “Hopefully, Callum and Caitlyn will progress with Tech-Wales who deserve praise for going ahead with the Apprenticeships when faced with Covid-19.”

Welsh Government Economy Minister, Ken Skates said: “It’s great news that, working with the NTfW, we have collectively signed up our 500th apprentice since the referral process on the Business Wales Skills Gateway was established.

“That’s 500 people who may not have known which direction their career was heading, but thanks to the support they’ve received from the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship Programme they’re gaining new skills, knowledge and confidence while earning a wage.

“Apprenticeships are crucial to our economy and form an essential part of our response to the economic impacts of coronavirus. I’d like to wish Callum, Caitlyn and everyone embarking on an apprenticeship the very best for the future. I’d also like to thank businesses involved in the programme for their commitment to helping individuals progress.”

The NTfW is a membership organisation of more than 70 quality assured work-based learning providers with links to thousands of employers across Wales.

Operations director Jeff Protheroe said: “Signing up the 500th apprentice is an incredible milestone for the service we offer. The fact that it has been achieved in such uncertain economic times is testament to how highly employers and individuals value the Apprenticeships Programme in Wales.

“Not only is it great to see that employers are continuing to recruit apprentices to increase and develop their workforces, it is also encouraging to hear the stories of Callum and Caitlyn.  Both demonstrate that bright and talented young people are turning to apprenticeships to get ahead in their careers.

“I urge any employer who is looking to utilise the Apprenticeships Programme in Wales to grow and develop their business, but who is unsure as to where to start, to contact us at NTfW.  The Apprenticeships Programme is very much open for business.”