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Apprentice of the Year talks success with secondary school pupils #AWWales

A 19-year-old from Port Talbot is encouraging pupils from her former secondary school to consider apprenticeships as a chosen career path.

Sally Hughes attended Ysgol Cwm Brombil in Port Talbot before attending Neath college to do AS-Levels in biology, chemistry and psychology. After completing the year, Sally enrolled onto a BTEC Level 3 Applied Science at Gower College Swansea.  

Ahead of Apprenticeship Week Wales 2019, Sally has returned to her former school to talk to the current learners about her successful experience as an apprentice.

After two years in college, Sally was feeling uninspired and so looked at other opportunities to pursue her passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Sally said: “I’ve always wanted to get into engineering, and I presumed college was the only option when I left school. It wasn’t until a friend told me about an apprenticeship at Tata Steel, that I realised I could start working in a field I was passionate about, while working towards a qualification. It was perfect.”

She is now a Technical laboratory apprentice working towards a Level 4 apprenticeship HNC in Chemical Science.

“Every day is different and I’m always learning something new. At work I use what I’ve learnt in college and apply it to the job-in-hand, which has been so beneficial for my development.” Said Sally, who last year won the ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award at Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2018.

“In your first two years as an apprentice you are on rotation across all seven laboratories and so are given the opportunity to learn many different skills, working across different teams.

“In my third year I was able to choose my top three favourite areas of the business and work on a six-month rotation between these departments, completing projects in every area.

“During my third year I was offered a secondment onto shifts to accelerate my training which in turn will put me in good stead for a substantive role come September 2019.

“I’m working towards a Level 4 apprenticeship HNC in Chemical Science, working four days on and four days off as well as spending a day a week in Gower College Swansea.

“Last year I was also one of the lucky ones chosen to complete an Erasmus+ programme to visit a Tata Steel works in Holland. The aim of the trip was to compare the apprenticeship programmes in both countries and see if we could share learnings and bring new techniques back to the lab.

“I really enjoy my apprenticeship and the opportunities its giving me in life.  My goal now is to work hard and progress as high as I can within the company.”

Sally says she is determined to reach her full potential by embracing all opportunities available to her and hopes her story will show pupils at Ysgol Cwm Brombil that apprenticeships can be the route to a successful and rewarding career.

Mathew Davies, Technical Training Advisor at Tata Steel said: “We actively recruit apprentices as its difficult to find the talent we require in this complex industry. Our apprenticeship programmes ensure that we have a readymade talent pool we can take up through the ranks to senior operator roles and team leaders.

“Sally has been a key part of the team since day one. She has fitted into the teams quickly and has clear goals and aspirations going forward of where she sees herself within the Laboratories and that’s why we gave her an opportunity to be seconded onto Shifts whilst working towards her Level 4 HNC in Chemical Science. It’s been great to see the progress she has made in just over the two years of joining Tata.”

The Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates said: “Sally is a perfect example of someone who has used an apprenticeship to gain the skills they need to get ahead in life. In vising her former school, Sally is giving the apprentices of the future the knowledge and encouragement to ensure they make an informed decision when thinking about their career paths.

“Apprenticeship Week Wales is the perfect opportunity to celebrate vocational training and the huge number of people currently benefiting from apprenticeships. Although we celebrate Apprenticeship Week Wales every spring, the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship Programme runs throughout the year to highlight the opportunities and support available for both apprentices and the employers who take them on.”

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.

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