Paul Whiffen is using Apprenticeships to develop a successful career at award winning soft drinks company Radnor Hills in Knighton.
Paul, 37, who lives in Newtown, had no idea what career path to follow when he left school and ended up going to college to obtain a GNVQ IT qualification before landing a job for eight years at a local food company.
Turn forward the clock to 2020 and he’s still involved in the food and drinks industry, but his career has progressed to a managerial level with Radnor Hills. He has worked for the company for 12 years, starting as a mixer in the syrup room where he was the only employee at the time.
Today, due to the strong growth of the business, he manages a team of six staff and accredits his progression to Apprenticeships. Having achieved an Apprenticeship (Level 3) in Food Management, he is now working towards a Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4) in Food Manufacturing Excellence and is an Apprenticeships Ambassador within the successful company.
He says the qualifications have increased his skills, made him better at his job and boosted his confidence.
His progression was recognised earlier this year when he was named Higher Apprentice of the Year at Cambrian Training’s annual Apprenticeship, Employment and Skills Awards organised.
“I wish I had become an Apprentice rather than going to college, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school,” explains Paul. “Universities and colleges have their place, but they tend to make you book-smart rather than work-smart which is what employers want.
“Apprenticeships help with your skills base and learning the job. They have given me the skills to make and communicate plans to my team who are all either working towards or have already achieved an Apprenticeship.
“I told my team that I thought it would be very beneficial to them and the company if they did an Apprenticeship and they have enjoyed the learning process. It has definitely helped them with their day-to-day work.
“The skills I have learned have made me much more confident about managing and have enabled me to look at ways of increasing productivity. Learning has made me evaluate what is important and what I need to focus on.”
He praised the support he is receiving from Cambrian Training, who deliver Apprenticeships at Radnor Hills. “Their support is brilliant,” he adds. “They sit down with each Apprentice and carefully check that the framework is relevant to the job that he or she does.
“They also help with Essential Skills in English and Maths and are always available if you are struggling with anything related to your Apprenticeship. Their flexible delivery means that they come in after 6pm to see Apprentices who are working the night shift. I would definitely recommend doing an Apprenticeship with Cambrian Training.
“As for my personal ambition, I just want to go as far as I can with the company and keep learning and progressing, because if you stop, you go backwards.”
The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.