From education to employment

Former Cardiff and Vale College student Ewan wins Inspire! Award for adult learners

Former Cardiff and Vale College student turned employee Ewan Heppenstall has won Young Adult Learner of the Year at this year’s Inspire! Awards for adult learners.

Ewan, who is 23 and has mild autism, originally enrolled at CAVC in 2018 on an Entry Level 2 Work Skills programme then progressed on to the Level 3. He then completed a BTEC qualification which covered a range of areas including preparing and learning for a workplace, health and safety at work, working in a team, planning and running an enterprise activity, how to conduct yourself at work, producing a CV and applying for jobs.

Next, Ewan secured a place on the DFN Project SEARCH programme, which the College runs in partnership with Dow Silicones in Barry Project SEARCH is an initiative that started in the USA more than 20 years to give people with additional learning needs employment opportunities.

“I had to do a video interview to apply, and I was one of just six people to get a place,” Ewan said. “I thought: ‘This could be my big shot’. It really opened my eyes – I learnt more about using lots of different computer programmes like Excel and Word.”

Ewan gained three internships with Dow Silicones, and with each internship he developed and grew, and was so well-regarded that on his third he was nominated course representative by his Project SEARCH peers.

“It was a very interesting experience and a good insight into what working life is like,” Ewan explained. “I was working with a team; people had my back and I had theirs.

“I really enjoyed finding out what it was I wanted to do. I knew I was good with people, and I was able to apply the skills and knowledge I had gained to a real working environment.”

Following is time at Dow, Ewan gained employment with CF10 Retail in Simply Fresh, the supermarket on the College’s City Centre Campus.

“I’m always eager to get stuck in and work hard,” he said. “People see me as an asset – I love working there.”

An advocate for opportunities for disabled people to join the workplace, Ewan also delivers motivational workshops to other learners who are at the start of their own journeys.

“Disabled people should be included and be given a chance to prove themselves,” Ewan said. “We should be included by more employers.

“Just try your best and give it a go. Education and skills training can open doors and can give everyone a second chance.

“Learning has changed my life. If I hadn’t gone to College or Project SEARCH, I don’t know where I’d be now.”

Cardiff and Vale College Head of Preparation for Work Life, and Learning Wayne Carter said: “Ewan is a shining example of the journey that young people embark upon. From a shy and quiet individual with limited confidence and work skills, Ewan now believes in himself, we’ve stretched and challenged him and provided opportunities that he can thrive on, focusing on what he can do and not what he can’t do.”

Organised by the Learning and Work Institute, the Inspire! Awards are announced each year during Adult Learners Week. The celebrate learning and skills among adults, celebrating people who have changed their lives through education.

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