A FORMER Royal Marine has won a top award for learning after overcoming a gambling addiction by turning his life around through education.
Stuart Hughes, from Gwernymynydd, near Mold, won the Into Work category in this year’s Inspire! Awards after carving a successful career for himself as a support worker.
The 33-year-old served his country for six years as a Royal Marine.
But after he left the Services in 2006 with no formal qualifications, he found himself lost.
Eventually he found work as a plasterer, but by September 2015, Stuart’s attention turned towards gambling which was taking over his life.
Stuart recognised his underlying problem and turned to a supported living scheme in Flint, housing association, Clwyd Alyn.
With the encouragement of a support worker, Stuart secured a place on the in-house, 12-week Opening Doors Enhancing Lives (ODEL) learning and training programme.
His performance was highly valued landing him a job with the team following completion of his course.
Stuart said: “Supported living provided me with a place to live following a relationship breakdown and helped me with my gambling problem.
“During my time in supported living I made a conscious effort to volunteer for as many activities and learning opportunities as possible.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to learn once again and used the skills I had learnt to conduct a peer review of fellow service users in neighbouring Clwyd Alyn hostels.
“I then wrote a report detailing the results and recommending possible improvements that could be made to ODEL Training and Learning Services.
“After having such a positive experience of learning my confidence grew and I looked at how learning could help me gain employment in a support worker role – an area that interests me due to my own issues and my desire to help others who are experiencing difficulty.
“I was thrilled to gain a part-time position supporting other service users as a result of the training I’d completed.”
He added: “Training put me on the path to success.”
The Inspire! Awards are hosted each year ahead of Adult Learners’ Week to celebrate the achievements of outstanding learners in Wales who have shown exceptional passion, commitment and drive for learning, often in the face of difficult circumstances – as well as employers who champion learning in the workplace.
Organised by Learning and Work Institute Wales with the financial backing of the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund, this year’s Adult Learners’ Week runs from June 19-25, and celebrates lifelong learning; whether work-based, as part of a community education course, at college, university or online.
Now celebrating its 26th year, it aims to promote the range of courses available to adult learners; from computing and childcare to business and languages.
David Hagendyk, director of Learning and Work Institute Wales, said: “The Inspire! Awards show how learning can really change lives.
“We hope people feel empowered by the winners’ stories and make the most of Adult Learners’ Week to get involved in local opportunities and seize the moment – whether you are stuck in a rut, want to make a change or brush up on your skills, Adult Learners’ Week could be just the boost you need to help improve your current situation through learning.”
Stuart is now working towards counselling qualifications at Glyndwr University in Wrexham.
Stuart added: “I was in a bad place at one time and the future seemed pretty hopeless but things are going well for me now. I was proud when I won.
“My three-year-old son Riley has been a big inspiration.
“Support work and counselling is a total career change for me but I hope to use my experiences as a positive so I can shape a bright future for myself where I can be happy and provide for my son.”
Victoria Evans, service user involvement officer at Clwyd Alyn, is Stuart’s manager and nominated him for the award.
She said: “Stuart is an absolute asset to the team.
“He has a positive attitude, he’s keen, learns really quickly and he’s determined.
“And as a past user of our services at ODEL Involve, he has empathy and relates to the problems our clients face.
“When I found out about the Inspire! Awards I nominated Stuart as I thought it was the perfect opportunity to recognise his achievements.”
For more information on Adult Learners’ Week, go to the Welsh Government’s Skills Gateway for Adults at www.careerswales.com/skillsgateway, call 0800 028 4844 or follow @skillsgatewaycw