Cardiff-based apprentice, Nooh Omar Ibrahim, wants to create a new inclusive rugby community in Wales after falling in love with the sport during his apprenticeship.
To mark Apprenticeship Week Wales, he wants to encourage other young people who are thinking about their next steps to seize any opportunity available and follow their passion.
Nooh, from Cardiff, has always relished sport, but unexpectedly landed in the field of rugby after struggling in college.
“When I was at school thinking about my next steps, I was encouraged to go for a job in IT, business or even science, like a lot of people. But when I went on to study these subjects at A-level, lockdown hit, and it really affected me. Two of my grandparents passed away at the same time, and I struggled to stay focused at college.
“I was a bit stumped and wasn’t sure what to do with my life; I needed a new focus. I took a gap year and it made me question what I was passionate about. That was when I found an opportunity with the Welsh Rugby Union as a Rugby Development Apprentice.
“I’d never played rugby and knew nothing about the sport. Growing up in Butetown, I knew only a handful of people who understood anything about rugby. But I love fitness and I’m really active. Applying for this was out of my comfort zone but I was ready for a new challenge.”
After submitting his apprenticeship application, Nooh was invited to attend a two-day pre-selection programme with other young people from across Wales.
“I was on the selection days with people who had been playing rugby since they were about 5 years old. I felt at a disadvantage, so I had to make sure I showed a passion for sport and coaching, and a willingness to learn and try new things. I was so excited when they offered me the job, and this motivated me to work hard in my apprenticeship.
The 12-month programme offers apprentices like Nooh a Level 3 Sports Development qualification as well as gaining new skills and on-the-job experience.
“As an apprentice, my role is to assist the wider team with extra-curricular rugby activities for young people in the community, in schools and in clubs. Our aim is to engage young people with the sport and mentor them so they can develop their skills.
“I love coaching and working with young people. I recently had the opportunity to organise and manage a rugby event in Grangetown with children who had never played rugby before. They loved it and were asking me when they could play more.
“It’s so rewarding – knowing I’ve introduced a sport they may grow to love. I didn’t get that opportunity growing up, so I want to introduce rugby to other diverse communities in Wales and make the sport as inclusive as possible.”
Nooh’s apprenticeship has allowed him to fall in love with the sport, but he’s also developed personally since he began his role.
“Although my apprenticeship is in rugby development, it’s not all about the rugby for me. It’s helped me grow as a person – I’m now more confident, I can bring a fresh perspective to the team, and I’m trusted to work independently. It’s a two-way process which benefits me and my employer. I’m constantly learning and always feel supported; there’s an open dialogue and I can easily ask questions if I need to.
“It’s allowed me to travel all over Wales and build strong connections which will set me up for the future. What’s more is, I’m getting a qualification in sport and getting paid whilst doing so.”
Since starting his apprenticeship, Nooh hasn’t looked back and reflects on how far he’s come over the past 12 months.
“My apprenticeship has given me the confidence to know what I’m capable of achieving – I just needed that push. If you’re hard working and are willing to learn, you can accomplish anything. Look at me, this time last year I didn’t even know what a ‘ruck’ meant, and now I’m a qualified coach, referee, and I’m working towards setting up a full rugby team in Grangetown and Butetown.
“For any young person thinking about their next steps, if any opportunity comes your way, be open and just go with it. My apprenticeship has helped turn my passion for sport into a career and I’m excited to see what my next challenge brings.”
Minister for the Economy, Vaughan Gething, said: “Apprenticeships are a genius decision, for both employers seeking to future-proof their workforces while nurturing the talent that exists within Wales, and for people who want a proven route into employment that provides the opportunity to learn while earning a wage.
“Apprenticeship Week Wales is an opportunity for us to increase awareness and engagement with apprenticeships in Wales, and shine a light on the opportunities available to people right now.
“I believe apprenticeships will be vital as we emerge from the pandemic. That’s why we have committed to creating a further 125,000 Apprenticeship places over the next five years. We are a small country, but we have big ambitions, and our aim is to create a culture in Wales where recruiting an apprentice becomes the norm for employers.”
The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.
To explore what apprenticeship opportunities are currently available in Wales, visit the Apprenticeship Vacancy Service.
For more information about becoming an apprentice, visit www.gov.wales/apprenticeshipswales or call 0800 028 4844.