After feeling lost when she left school last September, a 20-year-old apprentice from Carmarthen credits her Early Years Apprenticeship with giving her a purpose and a clear path in life.
It comes as Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) statistics show there are almost 40,000 job vacancies in nursery, primary and secondary schools across the UK, with staff demand in Wales expected to rise in line with Welsh Government plans to extends its free childcare policy to include all two-year-olds.
Caitlin Morgan, a Nursery Nurse at Willow Daycare, is now supporting the ‘Genius Decision’ campaign and encouraging young people to consider all of their options after receiving their results this summer.
She also wants to inspire more people to join her in making an impact on children’s lives in the social and childcare sectors.
She said: “I left school feeling completely lost, it was so overwhelming seeing all the different careers, sectors, and pathways available to me.
“I knew I was a hands-on learner and wanted to get into the world of work instead of full-time education, which is why an apprenticeship was the perfect fit for me. I’ve been able to learn on the job from people who have been in the industry for over a decade.
“My apprenticeship has made the huge transition from school to full-time work so much less daunting, because you are fully supported by both your employer and training provider; you have someone advocating for you the entire time.”
After leaving school in June 2022, Caitlin became a part-time waitress, but she knew she wanted a job that made an impact on people’s lives and in an industry she was passionate about.
She added: “I worked as a waitress for a while, but after really evaluating what I enjoyed at school and where my passion lay, I realised that I wanted to support others through education.
“I watched my stepsister working in the childcare sector and realised that a career in that industry was for me. That was when I decided to use my Level 1 and 2 childcare GCSE qualifications and began to search for jobs in local nurseries.”
Caitlin spent time looking at different vacancies but soon realised that she didn’t have the necessary qualifications to go straight into a high-level role.
She added: “I spent my spare time scrolling through job sites and social media pages, which is when I came across the Nursery Nurse Apprenticeship vacancy at Willow Daycare and instantly applied.”
Willow Day Care is based on the grounds of Glangwili General Hospital and was launched by owner Rebecca Davies due to a desperate shortage of childcare support for NHS employees.
At the 2022 Apprenticeship Awards Cymru, they were named Small and Medium Employer of the Year.
Caitlin has seen her confidence and practical skills grow astronomically during her seven months at Willow Day Care, thanks to the support of her employer and training provider.
She added: “From my first interview to now, I have felt fully supported by the team, and it’s so nice having other apprentices to develop with as we are there to help each other through the process. I instantly knew Willow Daycare was somewhere I could grow.
“I am now a completely different person from the one I was seven months ago. I’m able to speak up and have the confidence to talk to people of all ages, and the support of my team has had a huge part to play in that.
“Being able to learn from professionals that have been in the industry for years has meant I have picked up different tips and tricks so quickly, as well as already securing food and hygiene, manual handling, and child development qualifications.”
Having an impact on the lives of young people has also been a very important part for Caitlin.
She said: “Watching the children grow their speech and language, as well as building connections with other children at Willow, is so rewarding to watch; you can see the positive impact you are having on the young people every day.”
Caitlin’s sights are set high, and she is hoping to go on to complete her Higher Apprenticeship in Childcare and receive a degree qualification.
She added, “If I could give one piece of advice to any young person receiving their results, it would be to get out there and investigate the many options that are available to you.
“I didn’t ever think I’d want to continue in education until degree level, but my apprenticeship has given me the confidence to believe in myself and my abilities.”
Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Gaining skills and qualifications are vital to diversifying our future workforce and reaching our ambitious vision for Wales, where everyone is given the opportunity to reach their full potential. Apprenticeships are a genius decision for young people who want a proven route into employment that provides the opportunity to learn from professionals in their industry, all while earning a wage.
“I wish Caitlin the very best in her career and encourage others to explore all the many options available to them through the Welsh Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee, including apprenticeships.”
If you, like Caitlin, want to see what’s out there in the world of apprenticeships, there is a wide range of options open to you.
The Welsh Government is funding the Apprenticeship Programme with help from the European Social Fund.
For more information about becoming an apprentice, visit www.gov.wales/apprenticeships-genius-decision or call 0800 028 4844.