Mar 2021 / Blog

Despite achieving 13 GCSEs, ranging from A-C grades, William Wallace realised that college wasn’t for him. Feeling unfocused about his future and curious to find out what other opportunities were available to him, William joined ACT’s Engagement Programme – a pre-apprenticeship programme, designed to prepare you for the world of work.

“I had attended ACT’s Summer School before joining college as I thought it would be a good way to spend my time learning life skills and earning some money throughout the summer. I started A levels in college as it was what everyone else was doing but I had no idea what I wanted to do in the future and couldn’t help feeling that I had been spending my time and energy focused on something that wouldn’t be of much use to me as I wasn’t pursuing a particular career path. Careers Wales suggested I join ACT as it would allow me to explore what career opportunities I might be interested in through work placements.”

Many young people like William feel pressure to have their lives mapped out ready for them after school. However, many aren’t always sure of the options that are available to them, as William shares:

“There are so many different schemes and training programs that no one tells you about in school. Most people have a predisposition to think that after GCSEs the progression has to be college and then university without considering there are alternatives.”

During his time with ACT, William was keen to try various work placement tasters in a variety of sectors in a bid to gain more clarity on what direction he wanted to move towards.

“I still felt unsure of what I wanted, so to allow me to get a feel of the different sectors and career paths available to me I attended all the tasters offered. We were offered lots of training on life and employability skills and I completed a business challenge which I added to my CV as it gave me skills in teamwork, money handling, customer service and an understanding of businesses. I also completed a basic St Johns First Aid course which I thought was an amazing opportunity. I was eager to get on placement and the tutors at ACT showed care and attention to every learner and tried to get all of us into placements where we could grow and develop.”

Initially, William began a work placement at B&M Stores, where he hit the ground running as a Retail Assistant and received positive feedback regarding his performance and contribution to the store. This not only increased his motivation and confidence, but also spurred his desire to progress either onto full-time employment or to secure an apprenticeship.

With the support of ACT, William found a work placement at atal, a structural waterproofing company based in Tredegar. He was placed in the Estimating and Technical Team and quickly displayed his excellent mathematical skills in providing estimates and quotations for customers – many of whom shared glowing feedback regarding his customer service and

attention to detail. Such was William’s obvious skills and commitment, atal offered him an apprentice position in the Technical Team as a Technical Adviser.

“I joined atal knowing that there was an apprenticeship opportunity and I had planned on returning to college once I had an idea of what it was I wanted to do. However, an apprenticeship started to appeal to me more because I had come to find that I really enjoy being in a working environment and an apprenticeship would provide me with an opportunity to continue that, whilst furthering my education. I had gained so much knowledge and understanding in my time with atal and the people here were very welcoming, I feel like this is where I belong and doing an apprenticeship allows me to develop further into the career path I started.”

Although William is gaining a wealth of skills as an apprentice, he feels the skills he gained from ACT’s Engagement and Traineeship programme played a huge part in helping him prepare for his placement with atal, and more importantly, in securing him an apprenticeship position.

“At ACT I learned many skills relating to employability. We had sessions on how to prepare for an interview and what to expect, as well as how to make yourself professionally presentable. They provided support and input on my CV and through placement, they provided an opportunity to gain experience and an understanding of what working life is like. I was in a retail placement for 3 months before joining atal which was a huge learning curve for me as I previously had no employment experience.”

William is clearly thriving as an apprentice at atal, having already been awarded ‘Employee of the Month’, where he received a magnum of champagne, and featuring as a case study on atal’s website during Apprentice Week. He absolutely loves working at the company and is amazed at how much he has learnt through his apprenticeship.

“The skills I gained when joining were innumerable. I came here with no knowledge of construction or the protection required to structures below ground which I would say I am now a specialist in.”

William is currently working towards achieving a Level 3 Diploma in Civil Engineering. His next big plan after completing his course is to move onto a Higher National Certificate (HNC) before potentially moving onto degree level. As for William’s career progression as an apprentice, it seems the skies the limit.

“Career wise there is a lot of room for growth at atal as we are still a small company. I enjoy being in a technical role and can see myself leading a design team in the future. Atal has supported me greatly, outside of my college course and I have received lots of training from professionals in the field. My manager Ian has taken me under his wing and I now follow in his footsteps to become one of the most knowledgeable people in structural waterproofing. I have recently applied to do my Certified Surveyor of Structural Waterproofing (CSSW) qualification, which is a very respectable title in the field. The specialist-training I have received at my workplace and the knowledge I have gained on my qualification are now great assets to me that I will have for life.”

William recommends the training and apprenticeship route for anyone, who like him, left school unsure of what to do next.

“Training on the job is such a great opportunity and the long-term rewards are great. You don’t need to pay your college fees, there’s job security and the things you will learn about in college will be applicable to your job and vice versa.”

Reflecting on his own apprenticeship journey, William says he really appreciates his time with ACT and the opportunities it opened up to him.

“I wouldn’t have found out where my interests are without ACT. I most probably would have settled for a job I wasn’t interested in to keep myself busy and working. I’d hope I would have found something like this but I doubt it would have been as soon or as local. Being at ACT enabled me to re-focus my energy for life, and really motivated me to find the right apprenticeship for me. The skills I gained with ACT definitely made me more employable.”

If you’re inspired by Williams’s story and are keen to hear more about the opportunities available for school leavers at ACT, contact us today on 029 2046 4727 or email