A Barry teenager who left school without any future plans after health issues threatened to stop him sitting his exams altogether now has his sights set on a successful career in sport following support from locally based training providers.
Luke Whitchurch is to go on and study for a BTEC with Cardiff City Foundation after ACT Training’s summer school programme helped him deal with anxiety issues doctors once feared could stop him finishing school at all.
The 16-year-old was an A* student when he started high school but was later diagnosed with anxiety and depression before he spotted an advert to join Wales’ leading training provider on an eight-week skills course at its centre in Barry this summer.
ACT Training took over the Holton Road premises in September 2015 to help 16-18 year-olds in Barry gain vital career skills in fields including Automotive Engineering, Business Administration, Construction, IT and many more through its Traineeship Engagement programme.
This week Luke returned to help staff celebrate the centre’s first anniversary. He said: “I missed the first two days of the ACT course because of my anxiety, but when I eventually found the confidence to go in everyone was so welcoming, and over the next few weeks we went back to basics and I learned how to cope with different situations I was likely to deal with in the world of work.
“I was learning so much but because it didn’t feel like a classroom environment I was so much more relaxed, and by the time I came to have my post-GCSE interview with the careers service a few weeks later I had the confidence to have a proper conversation about where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to do.”
As well as receiving top employability training and a high quality work placement, learners at the Barry skills centre enjoy many other benefits including fully-funded day trips and residentials to ACT’s outdoor activity centre, Ynys Hywel. Students also have access to an in-house counsellor and specialist Opportunities Advisors appointed to ensure learners make the most of their time at ACT and help guarantee success beyond their time with ACT.
Previously the site of Area 41 youth group, the centre has also supported the majority of more than 80 learners who have come through its doors since to engage in further training with ACT, move into a Further Education setting or find employment.
Barry Centre Manager Wyn Blight said: “When we first arrived in Barry a year ago few people were aware of what ACT Training was all about, but over the past 12 months we’ve been made to feel really welcome by both the business and local community around us.
“It’s been a huge pleasure to engage with learners and employers alike locally to ensure opportunities for young people in the area continue to be forthcoming, and we look forward as a team to creating many more in the interests of young people based locally in future too.”
ACT Training is Wales was established more than 25 years ago and is Wales’ leading training provider.
It has centres across Wales offering a range of training opportunities including Traineeships, Aprenticeships and management qualifications to both established professionals and those looking to make their first steps on to the career ladder.
Andrew Cooksley, Managing Director at ACT Training, said: “Luke’s experience of his time with ACT is exactly why we are working to reach out to as many areas of Wales as we can. Barry is a vibrant town with many developments and we want to ensure the opportunities that come about as a result go to local young people wherever possible.