Jan 2019 / Blog

A self-confessed ‘petrol head’, eighteen-year-old Darren James from Pontyclun is well on his way to achieving his dreams of becoming a heavy vehicle diesel fitter. After completing a Traineeship programme with Wales’ leading training provider, ACT, Darren is now thriving as an Apprentice with one of Wales’ Premier tour operators, Edwards Coaches.

Darren loves working with vehicles; having been home-schooled throughout childhood he was unsure of what opportunities were available to him:

“I was homeschooled with my brother until I was 15 and a family friend suggested ACT as a way for us to get into college. We looked into it for my brother first and then when we saw he was doing well, I followed him a year later.”

After researching the many different routes available, Darren joined ACT’s Engagement programme, with his love of motor vehicles pushing him to progress onto a Level 1 Traineeship in Vehicle Maintenance Repair. Traineeships are Pre-Apprenticeship training programmes that prepare 16-18 year olds for the world of work.

Darren’s commitment and drive to overcome his barriers to learning did not go unnoticed by his tutors, and in 2017 he was nominated for the ‘Traineeship of the Year’ award at ACT’s internal awards in the Motor Vehicle category.

Commenting on the accolade, Darren said, “I was shocked and very surprised to win the award as I was not expecting to be put forward for it but I am so grateful to the tutors for nominating me.”

Ros Smith, Care, Support and Guidance Co-ordinator at ACT, who nominated Darren for the award and played a key role in his learner journey said, “Since joining ACT, Darren’s really come out of his shell and he’s worked hard to build his employability skills. What an achievement for a learner who lacked confidence.”

Darren like many young people found the transition into the workplace challenging and initially struggled to adapt to the new work and social situations he found himself in, but was determined to persevere and overcome any obstacles he faced. His tutors were incredibly supportive and encouraged Darren to take part in a pilot scheme, which enabled him to gain access to an educational psychologist for an assessment. The outcome resulted in Darren being officially statemented as having special educational needs and gaining additional support from his Motor Vehicle tutors via an ALS worker (Additional Learner Support) who provided excellent one-to-one support for Darren during his qualification.

Ros was successfully able to progress Darren onto a Level 2 Heavy Goods course with Cardiff and Vale College, which later led to an Apprenticeship with Edwards Coaches. All this within a 3 year period.

Darren Gould, ACT Motor Vehicle Sector Lead commented, “I’m very proud of Darren for overcoming his barriers and realising his dreams. He deserves all of the success for all his hard work and efforts.”

Darren himself added, “I couldn’t believe it at first when Edwards offered me the Apprenticeship. I was so excited. I now go to college one day a week and work with a brilliant group of men who ‘take the mick’ a lot but who also take time to teach me the job.”

Darren James and his workmates at Edwards Coaches

Darren James (centre) and his workmates at Edwards Coaches

Jason Campfield, Fleet Engineer at Edwards Coaches commented, “Darren’s been with us since September and he’s settling in really well. He is always keen to tackle the day’s tasks which is fantastic.  It’s the early stages of his Apprenticeship but he’s learning a lot and there are plenty of opportunities for him to continue to progress and develop his skills and knowledge further so he can take on even more responsibility. We support our Apprentices every step of the way and we’re currently also supporting Darren through his driving test so he’ll hopefully have his licence soon too. We work closely with the college, so we’re always aware of how he’s doing and what we can do to support his learning on a practical level.

Apprenticeship schemes have been an excellent resource for Edwards Coaches, who use their Apprentices to grow and nurture a skilled workforce to suit their business needs and provide jobs within the community that the Edwards family themselves grew up in. They currently have around 10 Apprentices working across their business.  

Jason added, “As a company we massively benefit from Apprenticeship schemes as it means we get to mould our learners to our specific needs. Multi-skilled technicians with experience of PCV maintenance are a rare commodity so it’s not always easy to find staff with this specific skillset, growing our own and watching them develop into confident qualified technicians is extremely rewarding. We would definitely recommend Apprenticeship schemes to other businesses as they allow you to train your workforce to fit your specific requirements.”

Darren is one of thousands of Apprentices who is benefiting from the chance to specialise and develop his skillset, and he is looking forward to taking advantage of the many opportunities that lie ahead for him. Reflecting on his journey to date, he said:

“If I hadn’t gone to ACT and began my Traineeship, I wouldn’t have had the chance to learn about motor vehicles till later on in college – if I had even made it there to begin with. ACT has given me a huge amount of support and I would highly recommend them to absolutely anyone.”

Talking about his future plans, Darren added, “I’m looking forward to completing the Apprenticeship, including the additional improver year I’m currently doing, and working towards my goal of being a fully qualified heavy vehicle diesel fitter. I’m really excited for what the future holds.”

Inspired by Darren’s story and think a Traineeship or Apprenticeship could be for you? We’re here to help. If you’re 16-18, living in Wales and not in full-time education, find out more about our Traineeship programmes here. We also have hundreds of Apprenticeship vacancies from top Welsh employers who are looking for bright young candidates like you. With direct connections to over 1,100 employers we have helped over 6,500 young Welsh people a year achieve their career ambitions. What are you waiting for? Apply now.