Neil Challenger has recently set up his own company at the age of 27, but he credits the apprenticeship programmes completed through leading Welsh training provider Cambrian Training Company as “giving my life a push in the right direction”.

The ambitious entrepreneur has found his calling with Challenger Design after a working career that has seen him take on roles from factory work to being a Butlins holiday rep.

He is now helping local businesses in Glynneath and beyond with web design and development, web hosting and branding, and says that it was his decision to start vocational learning that later provided the confidence to go it alone.

“I believe apprenticeships are the best way of learning,” said Neil. “On the job learning is not just effective, it makes you better at doing the job. Having the guidance behind an apprenticeship and analysing why you do certain aspects of a job role and when, is without doubt the best way of learning a job.

Neil has now completed Level 2 and 3 in Customer Service, having previously worked in similar roles.

“Being able to analyse each aspect of customer service pushed me to understand why I was faced with certain situations and taught me how to deal with them correctly and efficiently.

“My vocational learning has certainly made me a more confident person in dealing with customers and knowing how to deal with situations when they arise.”

As his business develops, Neil is planning on building his personal capacity by undertaking an Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) course, a programme that is being introduced by Cambrian Training Company (CTC) for the first time.

“Accounts in business is, to me, the most difficult aspect,” he explained. “I have done many courses to understand this, but never saw a huge development in my ability. Having gained so much from learning the customer service role, I believe gaining this qualification is essential in my understanding of the accounts aspect of my business.

“Self-employment was always a goal of mine, and being given the skills and confidence in the past couple of years, I have decided to take the chance, so a qualification like the AAT can only boost my own personal skills to help the business prosper.”

With employers up and down the country turning to work-based learning in growing numbers, Neil had a word of advice for anyone considering an apprenticeship.

“Gaining on-the-job knowledge and qualifications is certainly the best way to understand a job role from every angle. I would encourage anyone considering doing an apprenticeship to go ahead and simply enjoy the experience.”

He said that his relationship with CTC has been “superb” and described his training officer, Sheila Coles, as a “brilliant mentor”.

“I have gained a friend as well as a role model in Sheila,” said Neil. “Whenever I have needed help with anything, be it work-related, education-related or even personal issues, she has been there for me. Cambrian Training has certainly been a major factor to me taking a chance at becoming my own boss and also towards the success I have had so early on.”

But Neil’s progress certainly hasn’t come as a surprise to his training officer with Sheila adding: “Neil’s drive and determination has always impressed me so it came as no surprise when he told me he was going self-employed. I look forward to working with him on the next stage of his learning journey through the AAT course.”

Challenger Design: www.challengerdesign.co.uk