The 25-year-old award-winning welder from Neath who is calling for more women to join the trade
The Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales programme gives young people a real grounding in preparation to take up a career
For Curtis Rees it was all about taking the opportunity to establish himself in the workplace and building a career which he absolutely loves.
It is job done on that score for the 25-year-old welder from Neath, and now he is urging others to follow in his footsteps through the Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales (ISEiW) project.
He thinks that the fully-funded Welsh Government programme, of which he is an ambassador, has definitely lived up to its name in the delivery of activities that inspire and promote vocational excellence. It is all about developing young people who will help drive the Welsh economy forward to greater prosperity.
Curtis, who works for Afon Engineering in Swansea, thinks the skills which he has picked up have not only helped him, but have had a positive effect on others as well.
The programme aim is to:
• Raise awareness of vocational education and training
• Shine a spotlight on skills excellence
• Inspire and promote vocational excellence
The former Neath College student pitched up for work experience at HCM Hydraulics close to home in Resolven at the age of 17 as part of his four year ABC welding course.
And his talents were showcased during the 2019 WorldSkills UK competition when he took a gold medal in the welding class.
These days at Afon Engineering he is a coded welder, which means he is able to carry out specialist work.
Important to be able to progress in your chosen career
“I always like to keep myself busy, to get my hands dirty,” said Curtis. “You can make anything really with welding. That's what I like about it. It is really rewarding as well. Progression in welding doesn’t stop.
“The reason I would look at welding as a career is because of the opportunities I had. You could go for an apprenticeship, you could try a training day, you could try work experience.”
How to pick up new skills for a brighter future
An array of opportunities feature across the three elements which make up the ISEiW programme.
Have a Go Initiative
Have a Go uses fun and interactive experiences to encourage primary and secondary school children, as well as college students, to learn more about vocational careers and apprenticeships. There is £500,000-worth of specialist equipment to help give learners an engaging insight into some of the most popular and exciting career options. The experiences are available across five industry sectors, ranging from media to engineering.
Skills Competition Wales
This Welsh Government-funded unique offering to Wales offers a series of local vocational skills competitions annually for those studying or employed in Wales. Whilst the activities are aligned to UK and international competitions, the emphasis is on the needs of the Welsh economy.
WorldSkills UK Wales
World-class technical skills are developed to enable Welsh learners to compete at UK and international competition level. The ultimate idea is to establish a larger pool of highly talented individuals through a Team Wales ethos. Qualifications are only the starting point, with the culture across colleges and training providers demanding elevation to the next level through world-class skills, life skills and confidence building.
The traditional image of a welder is a man of a certain age, but Curtis says it doesn’t have to be like that, with the younger generation able to play their part, whether they be male or female. In fact, he thinks welding makes a great career for a woman.
“I am quite passionate about that actually,” he said. “I taught my partner how to weld. I believe women would make better welders than men because of their eye for detail, and they have a lot more patience than us men.”
The Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales programme actively advocates young people to explore a variety of careers regardless of perceptions or stereotypes. Its aim is to inspire a passion in young people. After all, doing a job you love means you never work a day in your life.
Passing on your experience to help others
Curtis know he has made the right career move.
“I haven’t regretted it,” he said. “It has made me the person I am today. I have worked for it. There are so many opportunities out there for welding.
“It makes you a better person. I know it sounds like it's just welding, but it’s not. It’s the community itself, the people that you meet. You do have an impact on other people’s lives as well.
“I’m on Instagram and numerous people come on to ask me how to do things, what would I recommend? And they come back to me and tell me that it worked or they passed their welding test because of what I told them. It’s a real heartwarming feeling that.”
Curtis is one of many young ambassadors supporting the Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales project, with many more young individuals across Wales inspiring others and challenging stereotypes across a variety of skills from construction to media.
Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales is calling for young people with a passion for their skill, whether that be in engineering or construction, hospitality or IT, to join their programme and inspire others to achieve excellence in their trade.
Find out what is available to help drive your career forward by visiting the website.