Where are they now?
Kelly Bennett was a painting and decorating apprentice with both Y Prentis and Monmouthshire Housing Association between 2016 and 2018. During that time, she worked with Monmouthshire Housing Association’s Capsel team and won CITB’s Impact Achiever Award.
She discovered an interest in painting and decorating from working with her Dad, who himself is a painter and decorator. As well as doing some work with him, she worked full-time at McDonalds.
Kelly said: “It was great working with my Dad, but I wanted a bit more independence and to do something for myself. At college I was advised to get my Level 2 qualification before considering an apprenticeship, but I didn’t want to be stuck working at McDonalds for what felt like the rest of my life. I’m also great with practical stuff and I like to learn from being more hands on. I believed that an apprenticeship would be best suited for me, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.”
In Spring 2015, Kelly approached Y Prentis and expressed an interest in doing a painting and decorating apprenticeship. Dafydd Langley-Noel, Assistant Programme Manager at Y Prentis, invited Kelly in for an informal chat to find out a bit more about her background and to discuss her options. He advised Kelly to go back to college, enrol in a painting and decorating course and complete some essential skills, including her maths and English, which would permit her to later enrol onto an NVQ Level 2 apprenticeship course. Taking on board this advice, Kelly went away and worked hard. With a 100% attendance rate at college and evidence of her hard work to succeed, Dafydd went away and secured a placement for Kelly with Monmouthshire Housing Association.
Kelly said: “Dafydd from Y Prentis was amazing. I wasn’t really a good girl when I was younger and got into a bit of trouble and really struggled, but Dafydd gave me the chance I needed. I don’t know whether he realises it, but he really did help make it all happen for me."
Kelly spent a year with Y Prentis and achieved her NVQ Level 2 in Painting and Decorating at Coleg Gwent’s Pontypool Campus.
“Doing an apprenticeship was the best thing I ever did. I didn’t really know who I was, but it helped me find myself and who I really am. I still have a long way to go but it's given me the chance to learn and develop. It’s also made me want to go on and do more. I used to always say ‘I can’t do it’, but it’s helped me improve my confidence and taught me that I can do whatever I want to.”
After completing her NVQ Level 2, Kelly went on to work for Monmouthshire Housing Association. With them she completed her NVQ Level 3 in Painting and Decorating as an apprentice before becoming a permanent member of the team.
Kelly’s achievements have not gone unrecognised and last year she was awarded the Impact Achiever award at CITB’s prestigious Apprenticeship Awards.
“It still doesn't feel real going to London and getting the award - it was an amazing feeling! With all the jobs I’ve done in the past, I’ve never been shown appreciation for what I did so it really meant a lot to me.”
Dafydd Langley-Noel, Assistant Programme Manager at Y Prentis, said: “I am so incredibly proud of Kelly who has faced many barriers in life that could have hindered any chance of a career, but through sheer determination and ambition Kelly has proved that anything is possible should you want it bad enough. The change in Kelly from the start of her journey is phenomenal and she has achieved everything she has set out to do and more. When I heard that Kelly had won an Impact Achiever award at the CITB Apprenticeship Awards I couldn’t have been happier as I cannot think of anyone more deserving. It makes my job very rewarding to see that the opportunities we give our apprentices can be life changing and I consider myself very fortunate to have worked with Kelly.”
We asked Kelly what she’d say to somebody interested in applying for an apprenticeship. She said: “Give it a go and try your best - it's all you can do. An apprenticeship is so much more beneficial than a full-time course as you get so much on-site experience. I work with a great team - I love the banter and they just consider me as one of the lads. I also received great support from my mentor during my apprenticeship - there was one point I thought I was going to give up, but he was there for me and helped me get through it.”