Wandering the streets of Cardiff, getting into trouble, lacking in confidence and struggling in college with his basic skills- it’s safe to say that life looked pretty bleak for 17 year old Joe Watkins.
However, Joe is among the hundreds of young people from Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys who have benefited from the Learning 4 Life Scheme run by homeless charity, Llamau. Thanks to their support, he is now brimming with confidence, has developed and learned a range of new skills and has even secured a three year carpentry apprenticeship with the aim of becoming a fully qualified carpenter. This is his story . . .
I was living in a Llamau project and studying Carpentry part time in Dumballs Road with Cardiff and the Vale College. I was struggling with my basic skills because I hadn’t been to school since I was 14. Yusuf, the supported housing team leader, suggested I attend Learning 4 Life to gain more support with my numeracy and literacy skills in order to help me maintain my college place.
I needed to pass my basic skills in order to pass my college course so the extra support and smaller groups including 1:1 helped me do this. Having somewhere to go helped me focus and prevented me from wandering the streets and getting into trouble.
Life was hard and stressful because I had nothing to do and was starting to get into trouble. It was difficult because I was looking after my mum, getting in with the wrong people and getting into trouble. I felt that I didn’t know what to do with my life.
Thanks to Llamau, I have received a lot of support such as increasing my confidence and being able to talk to other people. I used to be really quiet but now I can’t stop talking!! I have achieved my City and Guilds Level 2 Application of Number and Level 1 ICT. I am now working on my Communication Entry Level 3. I have also achieved Agored awards in Internet Safety and Understanding Feelings and am working on my Art and Craft and My Cookery. I have attended a site visit in GE Aviation, had a mock interview with them and attended 4 days work experience. I have also been on a site visit to John Lewis and learnt about what they do and what they see and had a go at being a personal shopper. I was supported in achieving my CSCS card which will now allow me to be on a building site. I have received support in job applications and preparation for interviews.
I have learned a variety of skills. As well as what I have mentioned above, I have improved my time management, my courage to speak to new people and try new things, budgeting etc. All the skills I have learned have contributed to my being ready to apply for jobs and apprenticeships and helped towards me getting my own house.
The best thing about the project is that it is friendly, a nice learning environment, there’s no arguments and it’s relaxed. The tutors are fantastic and easy to get along with. They understand us better than the teachers did in school because they talk to us to get to know us and treat us like adults, with respect, and not just like a pupil.
Life is amazing for me right now. I am getting on with my life and feel I am actually doing something with my life. I have now got my own place to live, have got myself some qualifications and I’ve even secured a carpentry apprenticeship. I feel like I am actually going somewhere now.
I would definitely recommend anyone going through the same experiences to get in touch with the project. I think that it changes young people’s lives, gets them qualifications and gets them somewhere.
Funded through the £14 million Life Skills project, a funding stream which matches National Lottery Community Fund money with European Social Funds, the Learning 4 Life scheme aims to provide young care leavers with tailored support and guidance to help them into work and enable them to live independent lives.
For more information about the Learning 4 Life project click here
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