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How A Family-Run Business Is Discovering Wales’ Hidden Creative Heroes

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It has been a difficult year for young people. With an A Level grades crisis and ONS figures showing a rise in the number of 16 to 24 year olds out of work this year, continuing with work, training or education has been tough for many.

But one family-run business in South Wales has ensured that young people in the area will not be losing out. Sgiliau Cyf supports those who are struggling in mainstream secondary education, as well as young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are ‘NEET’: not in education, employment, or training.

The business provides young people with creative, hands-on and engaging activities and subjects, including music, film-making and animation, art and design, photography, textiles, and fashion. ICT skills and new technology are applied in all these areas to help young people enhance their digital skills, while also supporting the development of literacy, numeracy, IT and employability skills.

Since launching in 2017, Sgiliau has grown massively, with six centres across South East Wales and a Fast Growth 50 listing under their belt – they’re not short of success stories either. Among the many young people they have helped, there are some stories that show just how much Sgiliau’s centres can change lives for the better.

Jessica Apps relocated from Botswana to Blaenavon in 2018, but due to complications was unable to enrol in college and became ‘NEET’ for four months. Isolated in a strange new country without a support network, Jessica began her journey with Sgiliau in March this year. Since joining, she has been able to improve her confidence and express her feelings through creative writing and photography projects on Sgiliau’s Traineeship-Engagement programme, as well as completing a Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. She went on to volunteer at Sgiliau’s Brynmawr centre, and has successfully applied to Colleg Gwent where she is studying for A Levels in Photography, Sociology and Literature. She hopes to go to university.

“After five months, I found myself so happy and content with my new life,” said Jessica

“I had the drive to go to college and take the next steps towards my dream job. I can’t thank Sgiliau enough for helping me grow into who I am today.”

Thibaud Gailliard, originally from France, has also been able to find his feet with support from Sgiliau. Thibaud moved to Wales at 16 to live with his brother after losing his mother. He left France with no formal qualifications or work experience, but through joining Sgiliau’s Traineeship-Engagement Programme, he progressed onto Traineeship Level 1 to follow an ICT programme. Through Sgiliau, Thibaud picked up a range of skills, improving his English as well as finding a passion for music and learning how to use digital software such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. After completing a range of qualifications on Traineeship-Level 1, his tutors encouraged him to progress to an IT Level 2 Apprenticeship. Now aged 21, after successfully completing his apprenticeship and speaking fluent English, Thibaud is employed full-time as a Lead Administrator at Sgiliau.

“I am a much happier person to where I was before and I have a great career ahead of me. If I can do it, anyone can,” he said.

Jack, who has autism, joined Sgiliau after struggling with bullying at school. He had not been diagnosed with autism at school and lost confidence due to the lack of support, leaving school with few qualifications. Through team-building activities, sports and creative sessions at Sgiliau, Jack has been able to build his confidence. He went on to complete his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award and the Dame Kelly Homes Get on Track Award, where he won an award for ‘Best Motivation’ in 2019. He is now employed full-time and continues to develop his interests in art and music.

“I never thought I would get a job,” said Jack

“My teachers, Jordan and Tomas have really helped me grow as a person and have helped me mature.”

Through providing a supportive environment, practical skills and creative outlets, Sgiliau has seen those attending the centres across South Wales blossom and mature. It is clear that the business will continue to help young people develop in the years to come, and, with the impact of the pandemic, this seems more crucial then ever.