Warehouse apprentice says learning difficulties won’t stop his career success

apprentice Josh O'Leary

In the week of the first anniversary of the launch of the Welsh Government’s Disability Action Plan for Apprenticeships, a 21-year-old from Tredegar wants to encourage more disabled people to consider apprenticeships as a route to a successful career.

Josh O’Leary struggled with traditional classroom learning at school as his learning disability meant he found it more difficult to take in complex information compared to his peers.

He also found it hard to communicate with others and make friends and so after leaving school, he worried that he’d struggle to find a career that would support his additional needs.

Josh, who is now a Warehousing apprentice at Merthyr-based ELITE Paper Solutions, said: “After school, I knew I didn’t want to pursue further education, so I looked into alternative options. When I saw the apprenticeship with Elite Paper Solutions I couldn’t wait to get started and get to know the other apprentices on my team.

“I started my apprenticeship in April 2017 and since then, every day I have learnt something new. I’ve learnt how to operate machinery that recycles confidential materials as well as recyclable household waste, and I’m starting to manage small recycling projects.”

Since becoming a Warehousing apprentice, Josh has learnt a variety of skills including project management, team working and how to communicate effectively with his peers. Having completed his Level 2 qualification, Josh is now working towards his Level 3 Warehousing Apprenticeship.

“Learning from the more experienced members of staff has really helped with my development and working closely with them has made me feel like I’m part of a family. I hadn’t really known what it was like to be successful at something before my apprenticeship, so it’s given me a real confidence boost and I’ve made some true friends. My additional learning needs haven’t been an issue on site, and it’s been great to learn from others who have similar experiences to me.”

Josh is hoping that the qualifications gained through his apprenticeship will help his career progression and eventually lead to a promotion within the company to a supervisory role.

“Without the support and structured training an apprenticeship offers, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I hope that by sharing my story, I can show others that there are lots of options and different opportunities to suit all kinds of aspirations,” Josh added.

Ian Thomas, Enterprise Manager at ELITE Paper Solutions said: “Josh has become a completely different person since he started with us in 2017. His confidence has drastically improved, and he’s a very dependable and integral member of staff within the warehouse team. As a business, we find the valuable work opportunities we offer through apprenticeships are the most cost-effective way of giving employees of all abilities a chance to thrive in the workplace, while they gain the skills our business needs to deliver the high-quality services our customers expect.

“Apprentices also help to motivate our senior members of staff, as they’re keen to share their knowledge and take on extra responsibilities. We’d recommend apprenticeships to other businesses as a way of growing your talent pool and developing a reliable workforce.”