A childhood passion for the great outdoors has turned into a promising career for a Wrexham teenager whose confidence blossomed after an award-winning garden company opened up the pathway to employment.
The future is green for James Perry after a trainee placement with Gardens By Design led to full-time work and on to a level two apprenticeship, which he is now studying towards.
Having developed a keen interest in horticulture after taking care of his grandmother’s garden for pocket money as a youngster, James was keen to follow a similar path in adult life.
The seeds of change were then planted more firmly when James turned to ACT Training as a new college leaver who was unsure of how to bridge the gap between education and the workplace.
Now the 19-year-old is on course to become a fully qualified landscaper and has aspirations of heading up his own business one day as the third arm of a company recognised for its excellence by the Royal Horticultural Society, among others.
James said: “Before I came to work at Gardens By Design, all I knew was that I wanted to do something practical and hands-on with my life.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors too, but in terms of establishing a career in the field I had no idea where I might fit in or where to start.”
James continued: “Now I’m learning so much about not only the great outdoors, which I love, but also about how to run a business too.
“There are only three of us employed directly as part of the company so I’m really fortunate to be in this position – I’m learning a lot not only about horticulture but about project management and customer support, for example, too.”
James’ studies have been supported by Wales’ largest training provider, ACT Training, which launched its Training a Nation campaign at the end of last of year to highlight the range of traineeships and apprenticeship options available to the thousands of Welsh people not currently in employment, education or training.
Keen to build on recent news from First Minister Carwyn Jones that youth unemployment is falling faster in Wales than in the rest of the UK, the campaign also aims to increase the number of businesses in Wales currently taking on apprentices too.
Andrew Harper, who founded Gardens By Design, said taking James on as a trainee had been hugely beneficial not only for the teenager, but for the business too.
Andrew said: “I was very keen to recruit a trainee when it became apparent that I needed more help because it allows the employee to learn all aspects of the business from the start, and this is hugely important for a small company like mine.
“Fortunately, ACT Training matched our needs perfectly and arranged the arrival of James, who has become a valuable and key member of our team whose work enables us to complete our projects on time and schedule.”
Established more than 25 years ago, ACT Training has centres across Wales and a range of training opportunities including Traineeships, Apprenticeships, Higher Apprenticeships and Essential Skills training in numeracy and literacy.
Managing director Andrew Cooksley said: “Having left school myself at the age of 15 without any qualifications I am all too aware how difficult negotiating the transition from full-time education in to the world of work can be, especially at a younger age.
“To hear such great success stories like that of James’, who before linking up with Gardens By Design had no idea how to turn his strongest skills to making a living, is a great delight to ACT Training staff who work hard to provide learners across Wales with the pathways they need to succeed.”