Meet the apprentice who built a new life with €80

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AAT’s Apprentice of the Year Johnny Javier Morales Solorzano came to the UK with no money, no bed to sleep in and no English whatsoever.

Now he has a real career and the means to follow his dreams.

Solorzano received the award at the 2016 AAT Training Provider Awards, held on 5 May.

When Solorzano finished school in Spain, he looked at his options and decided he wasn’t going to get the career he wanted. On a whim, he decided to move to the UK.

“Sometimes, you shouldn’t think too much about a decision; you should just do it,” he says. “If you stop to think about it, it could be very hard. Sometimes it’s right just to jump into the pool.”

He didn’t have much money – after buying a plane ticket, he had €80 left in his pocket. His friend offered him a sofa to sleep on, and he managed to get a job as a cleaner, but other than that, Solorzano’s first months in the UK were disorienting. For one thing, he couldn’t speak any English.

“I was very scared,” he says. “I couldn’t even say hello, let alone keep a conversation going.”

Learning English came at a cost that Solorzano could hardly afford, but he happened upon an organisation that could teach him for free. He took lessons for two years, which paid off – his English is now impeccable.

The next stage was to find a career. Solorzano wanted to do something related to maths, and AAT seemed a great fit. He got through Level 2, and wanted to progress further, but could not afford any more courses. Then he received an email about an apprenticeship programme. “I applied and they offered me an interview,” he says. “After two days, I got the job.”

Since then, Solorzano hasn’t looked back. He is about to finish Level 4, and has great prospects with his current employer. His ambition, however, does not stop in a finance team.

“I want to create my own international company,” he says. “There are people who have a lot of money who want to invest overseas, and there’s a language barrier there. I want to be there to help them with that.”

It was a shock when he won the AAT Apprentice of the Year award. He says:

“I wasn’t expecting it at all. When they said my name I was like: ‘Oh my god, it’s me!?’ It was very emotional. I’m a very emotional person anyway. I’m very happy. I’m proud of myself.”

Mark Rowland is a journalist and former editor of Accounting Technician and 20 magazine.

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