“You can’t judge a fish’s intelligence by how well it can climb a tree.”

To Matthew Taylor, hearing those words from his Skills case manager were just the push he needed to keep at his apprenticeship.

Matthew had been battling more challenges that most – having gone through school with undiagnosed dyslexia and dyspraxia and thinking he was “dumb”, now he was failing his electrical apprenticeship exams over and over again.

“Hearing Jaqi, my Skills case manager, say that to me about the fish, it made me realise; ‘hey I’m really good at my apprenticeship practically – I just struggle with the paperwork’. It really made a difference to me,” says Matthew.

It Takes a Village

It was Jaqi, along with Bob Henwood of Northtec and Marius Schmidt from Skills, that Matthew credits with helping him complete his electrical apprenticeship and also identify his learning difficulties.

“I failed my exam a couple of times in my first year and it was Bob Henwood, my tutor, that said ‘this isn’t right, this bloke’s pretty on to it. We need to find out what is wrong because he should have passed this’.”

And he was right. Matthew, who was doing well in the practical work, was failing the theory exam every time. So, Bob organised for Matthew to be tested by the Skills’ Vocational Literacy Team. Sure enough, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia, a condition that affects the brain’s ability to think, learn and remember.

“Under pressure situations, text and numbers all merged into one black blob on the screen, and I would have to read the text ten times or more to actually take it all in and understand what I was reading,” says Matthew.

Added Challenges

These learning difficulties also coincided with severe anxiety Matthew had experienced since high school, to the point that Matthew constantly doubted himself and worried he would never make something of his life or succeed in his apprenticeship.

“I was in and out of doctors’ offices and seeing counsellors, just trying to find more coping mechanisms and methods. Because it is not something that is going to go away but it is something I can learn to manage a bit better.”

Once he got some tools to manage his anxiety and was able to access the right assistance to manage his dyslexia and dyspraxia, Matthew was able to pass his exams and get his ticket. A milestone that at times Matthew had thought he would never achieve.

“There was so much that I got help with. Bob gave me every resource I needed while Marius was an absolute gem,” says Matthew. “He helped me get up-to-speed on what I needed to know and how to study for it. That’s what got me over the line.”

In terms of the exams, the Skills’ Vocational Literacy Team helped Matthew access extra time for assessments and exams, as well as bathroom breaks during examinations. Something, he says, that “helped phenomenally”.

Focused on the Future

Seven years later and Matthew is a fully qualified electrician. He says it’s been a long seven years getting to the finish line but now he’s done it, he wants to show others in a similar situation, and facing their own challenges, that it can be done.

“I’ll forever be thankful to everyone involved in my apprenticeship. It means more to me than any of you will ever know. Leaving school at 14 because of being deemed stupid for struggling with paperwork – the journey has shown me I can do anything I put my mind to. And it has secured my future. So sincerely, to the Skills team that helped me, thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”

If you are an apprentice, or have an apprentice working within your business, that may be experiencing challenges with their learning, contact your account manager to find out more about how the Skills’ Vocational Literacy Team may be able to help.