It’s hard for teenagers to get on the career ladder, but the Welsh Government hopes its new training and development programme will help.
Jobs Growth Wales+ is a flexible programme that is designed to work around the needs of 16-18 year olds who are looking for a job. It can help with gaining new skills, qualifications and experience so that securing a dream job can become a reality for anyone.
The programme is designed to boost participants’ confidence whilst providing tailored opportunities and support to help individuals reach their potential. Its support also comes in all shapes and sizes and can be accessed by contacting Working Wales.
One teenager that understands how vital this type of support can be is Lewis O’Neill.
The 18 year old from Deeside left school without any GCSEs or qualifications and ended up in the criminal justice system. He explained: “In school, I was naughty and was getting into trouble all the time. Counsellors were really trying to help me sort things out, and after not doing my exams, I was referred to college. I actually started out training in construction, but I didn’t enjoy it.”
Thankfully, Lewis was then encouraged to apply for a Welsh Government-funded programme that allowed him to learn and get paid at the same time. He grabbed this opportunity and discovered a passion for upholstery following an initial work placement set up by Coleg Cambria.
Lewis continued: “It’s funny to think I had no idea what upholstery was back then. Someone told me about a work placement in upholstery in my local town where I’d be able to train while getting paid.
“I was told that it was very hands-on and that’s the sort of thing I was good at because it keeps me busy. I also knew I’d be happier if I was getting paid.
“On my first day they showed me the tools I’d be using and the type of work I’d be doing. It was very fast-paced and I initially thought that I’d never be able to do it, but the trainers and supervisors were amazing. They taught me everything I know now from scratch and put me on a development plan.
“Over the two years, I learnt the job and trade inside out, like cutting, sewing, finding flaws in fabric – it’s very specialist.”
Lewis has now landed a career at a well-known furniture design company after honing his skills through an apprenticeship. He also made sofas for big names like Next and Marks & Spencer at Westbridge Training Academy.
Since qualifying in December last year and successfully completing his apprenticeship, he is now working in a full-time role at Westbridge and aspires to help more young people like him get back on the right path.
Lewis added: “Without the training I received, I honestly don’t know where I’d be now. It really helped me and gave me something to focus on.
“I would recommend young people give the new Jobs Growth Wales+ programme a go. Don’t wait until you’re 25 to start job searching – it’s a no-brainer when you can try out different job roles now, get some training and get paid while learning.
“The owner of Westbridge started out as an apprentice and made his way to the top. Speaking to him really inspired me. I’m very much a practical person, so can’t imagine writing emails all day, but I like the idea of becoming a supervisor and training people on the floor. I’d like to help people like myself one day.
“I now have a good job with good prospects and hope that my story can inspire someone else.”
If you’re aged 16 to 18, living in Wales and have just left school or are looking for work, you may be eligible for the Jobs Growth Wales+ programme. The programme offers many benefits including getting paid with weekly training allowances whilst learning, the chance to gain recognised qualifications and one-to-one coaching to help achieve individual goals.
Plus, it offers teenagers an important foot in the door with employers, so they can start climbing the career ladder and fulfil their potential.
To find out more about Jobs Growth Wales+ visit workingwales.gov.wales/jobs-growth-wales-plus or call Working Wales on 0800 028 4844.