Cameron was concerned that his dyslexia might affect his chances of joining us as an apprentice. Six months on, he’s learning new skills every day as part of our construction team.
This article was first published in March 2020.
Choosing a path
I first thought about apprenticeships when I was at college. I'd finished my first year and although I was enjoying it, I decided that the best pathway for me personally was to learn while working. I came across an advert for a Canal & River Trust apprenticeship in my local area. I started the ball rolling and was extremely lucky to get an interview.
It was then that I realised most companies' apprenticeship application processes include a range of tests before the interview, called psychometric tests. I understood what these tests were for – allowing the company to build a picture of how I work and what I'm about. But I must admit, I struggled with them.
Out of my depth
I tried to the best of my ability, but being timed and reading paragraphs under pressure to complete the questions. Let's just say they're not my strengths. I didn't have any training at school or college on how to get a job, let alone on psychometric tests or the different stages of interviews. I felt completely out of my depth. I'm not very technical, in fact you could say I'm ‘old school'. I prefer talking and meeting people. So these tests were a new challenge and a life lesson.
When I had to do my Canal & River Trust test, I ran out of time at the end. I really didn't want to discuss this in my interview because I wanted to focus on how hard I would work, and how I wanted to learn and develop within a structured company. However, I knew my test results would come up at some point. So I explained that I was dyslexic, and that reading and processing questions were not my strong points.
Feeling at ease
The HR team were fantastic and supported me all the way. The staff who interviewed me were also very understanding and told me my dyslexia was not a concern. I felt the interview went well, and as we shook hands I felt at ease. I didn't hear back for a while, but I knew there were other people to interview. Then I got an email from HR asking me to complete the psychometric test again, but on this occasion I had extra time. I completed the task and waited.
Photo: Cameron (second from right) with his fellow construction team apprentices
I was at home when I got a phone call from the apprentice supervisor to tell me I had been successful. I was really happy and relieved. It was a mixture of different emotions. My colleagues have all helped me in the transition from college life to working life. I know I will learn in time. I enjoy picking up skills every day and meeting new challenges. The Canal & River Trust is a really diverse organisation to support and work for.
Believe in yourself
My advice to anyone applying for an apprenticeship is to believe in yourself. If you have a learning disability, don't let it hold you back. The support I've had has helped me so much. You might be a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner. We all process things differently, but everything is achievable.
Photo: Construction team apprentices get involved in lots of different tasks
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