Higher Apprentice Darren rises through the ranks at Stena Line

Darren Brown with two of his qualification certificates.

Former cabin assistant Darren Brown from Stena Line ferry company in Holyhead is living proof that one of the key themes of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week – “an apprenticeship can take you anywhere” – is true.


Since dedicating himself to growing in the business in 1999 with a level three Apprenticeship in Customer Services, he has steadily risen through the ranks with every new qualification he has achieved and has recently been promoted to UK co-ordinator for the shore based Onboard Services operation.


Lots of hard work and commitment have been matched by career progression and personal development and now Darren, 41, is encouraging eager learners across Wales to take advantage of every apprenticeship opportunity that comes their way.


He was a warehouse supervisor and cabin assistant when he began his early career and promotions have followed as he progressed to a level four Higher Apprenticeship in management. He’s now almost completed a level five Higher Apprenticeship and wants to continue to level seven to keep challenging himself.


All the qualifications have been delivered by Cambrian Training Company’s North Wales manager Dawne Thomas, who is based in Holyhead. Apprenticeship programmes are funded by the Welsh Government with European Social Fund support.


Leading the UK based team, his wide ranging role covers everything from supporting commercial activity on-board Stena Line ferries, supporting menu development, systems support, article listings, financial reporting through to supporting ship refits.


“No two days are ever the same in my job,” said Darren, who lives in Holyhead and spends about four days a month in Sweden, where Stena Line’s Head Office and Central warehouse is based.


“Every time I have completed an apprenticeship I have been promoted. There may be an element of being in the right place at the right time, but I think learning new skills has also been a deciding factor.


“The important thing about learning progression is that it reinforces what you already know and makes you start thinking outside the box. Stena Line is a very innovative company and that gives staff the stimulus to keep pushing to the next level.


“On the back of the qualifications that my colleagues and I have completed, the company is hoping to pilot a Higher Apprenticeship in Food and Beverage at levels four and five.


“We see great potential for a group of staff on-board our Stena Line vessels to develop as the next generation of managers to support succession planning. It’s important that these up and coming people have the same opportunities that we have had.


“Achieving a Higher Apprenticeship is hard work but it gives you such a buzz when you are doing it and keeps the brain active. It’s so easy to get caught up in repetitive routines in modern business, but by achieving these qualifications it makes you stop, evaluate and develop different ways of working.


“I have driven my team to assist them in achieving their goals of level three apprenticeships and all of them have seen the benefits. Training helps us to retain our workforce and drive service standards onboard our vessels which ultimately drives great results.”


He praised the flexible, tailor-made support that Cambrian Training Company provides to Stena Line’s learners. “We looked at doing a similar qualification with Bangor University but the programme was just not flexible enough to the needs of our business,” he said.


“Learning with Cambrian Training Company is tailored to work in a fast paced business and Dawne, who used to work for Stena Line, knows exactly how we operate. It’s such a great partnership – nothing ever seems too much trouble for them.”


Dawne, formerly Darren’s manager at Stena Line, said she had witnessed the impressive growth and development of his management style and skills with each qualification he had achieved over the years.


“Darren is an excellent learner and is always eager to develop despite being a very busy man,” she added. “I can’t speak highly enough of him.”