Acorn apprentice in the running for top award

Acorn apprentice, Niall Perks from Cardiff has used the Welsh Government's apprenticeship programme to make major strides in his career.

Niall, 20, took up his apprenticeship when he decided that real-world education was a better choice for him than going to university. Since then, he has progressed from a part-time job in a fish and chip shop to a promising IT and telecoms career where he brings an innovative approach, adding value for customers and his employer.

As a reward for his success, he has been shortlisted for the Foundation Apprentice of the Year award at this year’s Apprenticeship Awards Cymru, which take place at Venue Cymru, Llandudno on October 20.

Jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), the prestigious awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of individuals, employers and learning providers who have excelled in contributing to the development of the Welsh Government’s Traineeships, Jobs Growth Wales and Apprenticeship programmes. The awards are sponsored by Pearson PLC and supported by media partner, Media Wales.

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

While working on his Level 2 Foundation Apprenticeship for Cwmbran-based IT company SIPHON in partnership with Acorn, Niall developed new ways of working that resolve customers’ problems faster, with an increase in the number of issues resolved per engineer. He also used his coding skills to develop a more efficient way for his boss to create monthly reports for customers.

Greater self-confidence

Niall, who works as a Unified Communications Support Engineer, says his apprenticeship has given him greater self-confidence. “I have achieved more than I deemed myself capable of,” he said. “I believe that my journey as an apprentice can inspire others to see that university isn’t required to have a successful career.” 

Niall’s developing IT expertise was recently recognised when he won the gold medal in the WorldSkills UK heats for Advanced Support Technicians in Cardiff. Training provider Acorn judged him ‘Learner of the Month’ in May 2016, leading a field of 1,000 apprentices across the country.

His employer’s view is equally positive. Technical operations director Jeff Bevins said: “Niall is an extraordinary young engineer who undoubtedly has a very bright future ahead of him.”

Wales’ Minister for Skills and Science Julie James congratulated Niall and the other 32 shortlisted award finalists. “We are proud to be delivering one of the most successful apprenticeship programmes in Europe with success rates in Wales remaining well above 80 per cent,” she said.

“Developing skilled people is vital for our economy. We have some truly exceptional apprentices here in Wales and the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru provide a perfect platform for us to celebrate their hard work and achievements. Equally important are the learning providers and employers who go the extra mile to support their apprentices.”

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