A young trainee soldier from North Wales has won a major award that recognises dedication to learning.
Junior Soldier Roberts, from Holyhead, collected the ‘Young Adult’ award at the Inspire! Awards at a ceremony in Cardiff Bay.
The Inspire! Awards are hosted each year ahead of Adult Learners’ Week – initiatives coordinated by Learning and Work Institute, with support from the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund. Inspire! Award winners are rewarded for demonstrating the power of learning in raising expectations, building confidence and developing vibrant and successful communities, and their stories also featured as part of Adult Learners’ Week, which took place this month.
Junior Soldier Roberts, who is 17, was one of 12 winners who were awarded in a ceremony at The Exchange Hotel in Cardiff Bay.
The teenager suffered neglect and abuse from an early age and was taken into care at the age of 10. He was soon placed with a foster family, with his two brothers and sisters, and still lives with the same family, but the trauma of his early years had an impact on his self-esteem and he struggled at school.
“When I went into care, I remember being shocked at how calm it was. My foster parents were caring and I was amazed that some people actually really cared about me. That took a while to come to terms with.”.
Junior Soldier Roberts didn’t know what he wanted to do after school, and when he left aged 16 with a GCSE in PE, his foster parents helped him to look into options that would allow him to use his love of keeping fit and the outdoors.
He contacted the Army and they suggested he apply for the Traineeship Programme with North Wales Training.
The Military Awareness Course is designed to give learners an insight to military life and prepares and supports their application to the Armed Forces. He joined the nine-month course, getting up at 6.15am to travel on the train to Kinmel Camp in Bodelwyddan, five days a week. He soon made friends and reveled in the physical training, earning a place in the top four learners on the course and passing a BTEC Award in Work Skills.
“It helped me to get fit and build up my stamina and I learned a lot of skills that would help me in the Army. I became much more confident so I applied to the Army and was asked to go to selection – and I passed first time.” he said.
In March, A month after his 17th birthday, he started at Army Foundation College at Harrogate. Junior Soldier Roberts has now been accepted into the Welsh Guards and will be based at Combermere Barracks near Windsor Castle, one of three official residences of the Queen, when the regiment moves to the barracks this year.
His duties in Windsor could include taking part in ceremonial events and parades, including the famous Changing of the Guard.
“I’m really excited about the future and the opportunities that learning has given me, I used to be shy and I struggled to engage, but my training has matured me and made me a better person. I realise that even though I didn’t get on well at school, I love learning new things and there are lots of different ways to learn. I’m training to be a soldier now and I couldn’t be happier. I want to stay in the Army, enjoy a full career and travel the world. The Bahamas would be nice!”.
To find out what’s going on during Adult Learners’ Week and for personalised advice on your own learning options and support available, get in touch with Working Wales – the Welsh Government’s new, free service delivered by Careers Wales. Call Working Wales on 0800 028 4844, visit your local Careers centre, or search www.workingwales.gov.wales