Deeside teenager Lewis O’Neill has turned his life around and is looking forward to a career as a furniture upholsterer after being set on the right track by the Welsh Government’s Traineeship Programme.

Completing Traineeship Engagement and Level 1 Programmes and achieving a City & Guilds Level 1 Extended Award in Employability persuaded Lewis, 17, from Garden City, to seek a career where he could work with his hands.

Lewis, who left school without any qualifications and ended up in the justice system, has said that for the first time in his life he has enjoyed learning.

A work placement was organised at Westbridge Furniture, Deeside where Lewis made such a good impression that the company recruited him as an apprentice. He is now working towards a Foundation Apprenticeship in Upholstery, helping other apprentices when they need support.

In recognition of Lewis’ progress, he has been shortlisted for the Traineeship Learner of the Year (Engagement) award at the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2021.

This annual celebration of outstanding achievement in training and apprenticeships will see 35 finalists compete in 12 categories for awards. The winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on April 29.

Highlight of the work-based learning calendar, the awards showcase businesses and individuals who have excelled on the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship and Traineeship Programmes and gone the extra mile to achieve success during these unprecedented times.

The awards are jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW). Openreach, the UK’s digital network business and passionate supporter of apprenticeships, has renewed its headline sponsorship of the awards.

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

Paula Blundell, Lewis’s classroom tutor at Coleg Cambria, said: “As soon as Lewis realised that the work he was being asked to do was to improve his employability, he engaged 100%.

“His story should be seen as an example to others of what can be achieved through hard work and determination.”

Lewis said: “When I started the Traineeships, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I jumped at the chance to work with my hands when the apprenticeship was offered. I now have a good job with good prospects and hope that my story can inspire someone else.”

Alison Roberts, Coleg Cambria’s review and placement officer, said Lewis has turned his life around completely and grown in confidence thanks to the Traineeship Programmes.

Minister for the Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates, said: “Our Apprenticeship and Traineeship Programmes are helping people fulfil their career ambitions and I’m delighted we have already reached our target of creating 100,000 apprenticeships in this Senedd term. 

“This has been key in helping apprentices of all ages to gain important skills and experience that we know businesses across all sectors of the economy in Wales really need. This will be vital as we emerge from the pandemic.

“Apprenticeship Awards Cymru provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate and showcase the achievements of all involved, from star apprentices to skilled learning providers.

“I’d like to congratulate all the finalists announced for this year’s event and wish each and every one all the best for the future.”