“I didn’t know where my life was heading. Having a purpose and clearer career path has changed everything.” 21-year-old conquers self-doubt to win Inspire! Award and land dream job in IT

A 21-year-old from Rhondda Cynon Taf has won a major award for the way he has dedicated himself to achieving his goal of a landing role in IT.

It wasn’t an easy journey for Daniel Jones. He was faced with uncertainty about his job prospects, a lack of confidence in himself, as well as difficulties communicating with new people after leaving college.

So, to better his chances of finding employment, he joined the Itec Training Solutions Employability Skills Programme in November 2018.

Determined to improve his skills, he completed the Employability Skills Programme with flying colours. From there, Daniel landed a Job Growth Wales placement with Comgem.

Just two weeks into his placement, Daniel secured a full-time role at Comgem and is well on his way to building a successful career in IT.

As a result, Daniel was awarded the ‘Into Work’ Inspire! Award in recognition of just how far he has progressed personally and professionally in his adult learning journey.

Daniel was one of 12 winners to be recognised at the 2021 Inspire! Awards. Co-ordinated by the Learning and Work Institute with support from the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund, the Inspire! Awards recognised those who have demonstrated a commitment to lifelong learning, building confidence and developing vibrant and successful communities.

The Inspire! Awards are were part of Adult Learners’ Week, which took place this year from 20-26 September offering taster sessions and live online sessions to inspire people to keep learning throughout their lives.

Daniel said, “I can’t believe how far I’ve come in the past couple of years. I’m thrilled to win this award and it still hasn’t sunk in to be honest.

“’I’ve always had a passion for IT because it’s new and cutting-edge. The fact that the technology is constantly developing means you can’t sit still, and you always have to learn if you want to keep up.”

Daniel was confronted with setbacks after leaving college, but refused to give up on his ambitions of finding employment in IT.

He continued: “It quickly became clear to me that I needed way more experience to get into work. The job centre recommended the Employability Skills Programme  – they were so right.

“The start of the course was tough. I realised I needed lots of improvement. When we started I was very shy and reserved.

“Going through the course and meeting new people every day really helped to build my confidence and prepare me for life after college with training on things like CV writing and interview prep. I use loads of these skills to this day.”

After six months on the Employability Skills Programme, Daniel’s training provider, Itec, felt he would benefit from a work placement. Daniel had impressed them so much with his attitude and work ethic, they decided to offer him a six-month placement within their IT department.

Daniel said: “It was strange and slightly daunting at first getting used to a 9-5 working environment. Thankfully, I had two colleagues on the support desk who showed me the ropes and were extremely supportive.

“I loved the challenge. There were lots of different things I had to do, from sorting VPNs to helping staff with connectivity issues. It empowered me to know how to diagnose issues and resolve them as quickly as possible.”

For Daniel, things kicked up a notch during to the pandemic.

“I had to become even more self-reliant and independent. The rest of my team were dealing with the stresses of getting all the infrastructure in place to support remote working. I knew I needed to step up to help them so began picking up even more tasks and responsibilities.”

As his placement at Itec was coming to an end, Daniel was keen to progress into another role with a better chance of full-time employment.

In August 2020, he secured a Jobs Growth Wales placement at e-commerce company Comgem and was offered a full-time position within two weeks.

He continued: “It felt amazing to have finally reached my goal of a full-time position in IT. All the hard work paid off. I couldn’t have done it without the experience, confidence and people skills I’ve gained since leaving college.”

“If I could give my younger self a piece of advice, I’d say you don’t always need to rush into full-time work. That’s what I tried to do and it demotivated me because I wasn’t ready.’

“Gaining the experience and skills before going into employment really set me up for success and I can’t recommend it enough to other young people in a situation like mine.

“I had such a tough time before I started learning, I didn’t know where my life was heading. Having a purpose and clearer career path has changed everything.”

Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said: “Congratulations to all the winners and nominees in this year’s Inspire! Awards. There’s some really powerful stories behind this year’s participants, with some great examples of people overcoming personal challenges in their commitment to learning, and it’s important to celebrate the achievements of everyone who took part. Well done everyone!”

David Hagendyk, Director for Wales at Learning and Work Institute said: “What better way to realise the value of adult learning than to hear the uplifting stories of our Inspire! Award winners. Each and every one of our winners demonstrates the benefits lifelong learning can bring – from improving mental wellbeing, to gaining the skills to land a new job.”

“We hope their incredible stories will inspire people across Wales to take that first step back into education. Whatever your motivation for gaining new skills, there’s never been a better time to change your story.”

For personalised advice on your own learning options and support available, get in touch with Working Wales on 0800 028 4844 or search www.workingwales.gov.wales.


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