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Ifan's ideal apprenticeship

Photo: Ifan's aerospace engineering apprenticeship was perfect for him.

After embarking on an apprenticeship, Ifan now works for a world-renowned engine manufacturer and loves to travel in his spare time.

Ifan’s parents didn’t know he was profoundly deaf until he was around three years old, when a new hearing test system came into place. When he finally received his hearing aids, he had a lot to catch up on. “I couldn’t hear but I was reacting to the vibrations, so my parents didn’t realise I was deaf,” Ifan explains. “I was also misbehaving, and they thought I just wasn’t listening. When they found out, everything changed.”

Attending a mainstream school, Ifan (now 22) felt like he was behind his classmates, but he had a positive experience with fantastic support in primary and secondary education. “Welsh is my first language, so I was playing catch-up with my English, but I had amazing one-to-one support in lessons and from a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) who visited once a week,” he says. “My parents always encouraged me too. I was really lucky, and with help I was able to do well.”

Whilst studying his GCSEs, Ifan found exams difficult and quickly realised that he preferred practical work. “I would get extra time in exams and that helped, but I didn’t like them,” he says. “I found I’d rather work with my hands and build things.” Ifan studied GCSE subjects he enjoyed, including PE, Technology and, his favourite, Engineering. “BTEC Level 2 Engineering was the best thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “It gave me an understanding of what’s involved in engineering and was an important stepping stone in the right direction.”

For Ifan, choosing what to do after Year 11 was straightforward. “When I finished school, I wanted to focus on practical work,” he says. “I didn’t want to do A-levels, so I decided to go to college.” During his time there, Ifan studied BTEC Level 3 Mechanical Engineering. “It covers a lot of areas within engineering, and I loved it because there was lots of practical coursework. I was marked on how well I built things and I got a Distinction,” he says.

Like his school, Ifan’s college supported him. “I had help from the Disability Support department and I made sure I told them what I needed,” he explains. “If I didn’t speak up for myself, I wouldn’t get the right help. You have to be honest so you can make the most of life – we deserve the same experiences as any hearing person.”

While at college, Ifan attended an apprenticeship fair and found out about an opportunity with Babcock, an aerospace engineering company. “I didn’t think I’d get the apprenticeship because of my deafness, but I had a lovely apprenticeship manager who told everyone that I should apply because I could do it,” Ifan recalls. “I wouldn’t have felt confident applying otherwise.”

The chance to earn and learn made apprenticeships appealing to Ifan, and he knew higher education wasn’t the right choice for him. “I’d have enjoyed university, but there are lots of exams and I’d have been distracted by the social side of it,” he says. “I knew it was best for me to work, get a qualification and earn money.”

For the application process, Ifan submitted his CV and was invited to an interview. “Before the interview, I told them I was deaf and that I needed patience. They were understanding and even showed me the written interview questions,” he recounts. “I had a group task first and I was worried about it, but I knew the people I was with, so they understood how to communicate with me. I made sure I talked a lot and put myself out there. Afterwards, I had an interview and I got accepted onto the apprenticeship!”

Ifan completed his apprenticeship at a Royal Air Force base, where he directed aircraft and fixed planes. Initially, he was concerned about working in a noisy environment and being unable to hear instructions. “I was only 16 and I wasn’t comfortable asking people to change the way they did things,” he says. “After a couple of weeks though, I told a colleague that he needed to face me when talking to me, and he did! As time went on, I built my confidence. The first colleague was fine with it, so I felt I could ask other people too. Now, I tell people if I miss something and how they can help.

“Engine building suited me the best,” he adds. “It was a controlled area with little noise, and I loved the role. I told the coordinators and focused on this for my second year. I haven’t looked back since!”

After completing his apprenticeship, Ifan felt it was time to move on and now works at Rolls-Royce as an Inspector, performing checks on Hawk engines. He’s currently focusing on work, playing football for Bristol City’s deaf team, and travelling. “I want to discover other cultures,” Ifan says. “My dream is to service engines in different countries, so I can work while travelling the world.”

Ifan encourages all deaf young people to find and follow their passion. “During your GCSEs, find a subject you love and focus on doing something related to it, whether that’s going to university, doing an apprenticeship or finding a job,” he says. “Now’s the best time to figure out what you enjoy, and don’t worry about changing your mind – you’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you and you’ll carry on learning after you leave school too.”