A 24-year-old web designer is encouraging pupils at his former secondary school to consider apprenticeships as a route to their chosen career.

Tom Dix, from Newport, attended Lliswerry High School completing GCSEs and A Levels. After school Tom was unsure what he wanted to do as a career, and worked in a series of jobs until a placement through Jobs Growth Wales led to him discovering an aptitude for web design.

After completing his placement, Tom was still undecided on what he wanted to do long-term and applied to study at Cardiff University. But after spending so long learning skills on-the-job, Tom struggled going back to a ‘classroom’ style of learning. He looked into more practical ways to gain qualifications and was accepted onto an apprenticeship in web design with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in Newport.

Now a fully qualified web designer, Tom hopes his story will show pupils at Lliswerry High School that apprenticeships can be key to career success.

Tom said: “My placement with Jobs Growth Wales was originally in graphic design. The company I was working with took on a web designer at the same time, and when they left I ended up taking on responsibility for some of the web design as well. I really enjoyed the hands-on approach to learning while doing real work. That’s something I really missed during my year at university, as well as earning and the independence which comes with having your own income. Both of these things led me to consider an apprenticeship.

“By then I knew web design was something I enjoyed and would like to pursue as a career. I found several positions I could apply for and was offered a placement with the User Experience team at the IPO.

"I completed my apprenticeship over two years, in the first year I went to college and had the opportunity to meet and get to know other apprentices doing the same course as me with other companies. My second year was spent working full-time at the IPO.

"Learning on the job allowed me to become familiar with the company and the work, and even though I was still an apprentice I was given more and more work usually done by qualified employees. Part way through my apprenticeship one of the full-time designers went on paternity leave and I had the opportunity to take over his project.

“I completed my apprenticeship in September. I’m still working for the IPO as a contractor and really enjoying the work.

"I like how the government approaches web design and I get satisfaction knowing the web pages I design are helping people access services they really need. It took me a while to get here, but through an apprenticeship I’ve finally found a long-term career path doing something I love.”

Elaine Short, learning and development specialist at the IPO, developed and now runs the IPO’s apprenticeship programme.

She said: “At the IPO, what we get from apprenticeships is that they bring freshness into the organisation and, especially with the younger apprentices, it means we keep up-to-date with new trends. As an organisation, they can end up teaching us things. And from our point of view, having apprentices gives us new talent and gives existing staff important management opportunities as they develop apprentices.”

Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning Eluned Morgan said: “Tom is a perfect example of how apprenticeships can transform lives, helping people into careers. Apprenticeships highlight the importance of gaining practical, on the job experience that provides people with the skills and qualifications they need to build a rewarding career.

“Apprenticeships play an important role in increasing Wales’ overall skill set and driving economic growth, making sure that the nation remains competitive on the world stage.

"Apprenticeships are a worthwhile investment for employers who can train their workforce in the specialist skills they need to sustain and grow their businesses.

“National Apprenticeship Week is an important celebration of the fantastic opportunities apprenticeships offer to individuals as well as businesses across Wales.

“For individuals, apprenticeships can be a route to an exciting and fulfilling future career. Through apprenticeships, companies are helping to keep vital skills and industries alive and drive economic growth in Wales.

“Although we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week every spring, the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship Programme runs throughout the year to highlight the opportunities and support available for both apprentices and the employers who take them on.”

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.

For more information about becoming an apprentice, please visit www.careerswales.com or call 0800 0284844, log on to www.facebook.com/apprenticeshipscymru ,@apprenticewales on Twitter and follow the story using the hashtag #AWWales.