From Gaming to Guinea Pigs – Josh’s Story

Continuing on from last week’s Neurodiversity Week, we caught up with animal care apprentice, Josh Nicholls, to ask him about his experience of studying with The College of Animal Welfare…

My name is Josh, I am an animal care apprentice at Chatsworth House and I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I really struggled at school as I couldn’t sit for long periods of time, but I wasn’t allowed to move around. I was excluded from school in year 8.  For a few years, I did some volunteering on a farm and went to some lessons, but I really struggled, and my confidence and mental health was very low.  I spent a lot of my time gaming, and not really leaving the house other than to go to football.

After the pandemic, I was offered the chance to work at Chatsworth House as part of the government’s Kickstart scheme.  I was terrified coming for the interview, but they saw something in me and offered me a place on the scheme. At first I wouldn’t talk to people, but loved the job.  There were some classroom lessons, but they understood that I couldn’t manage six hours in a classroom so altered how and where I was taught.  They let me have fidget toys and time to walk around when I needed to. In time my confidence grew, and they offered to employ me and to be an apprentice with The College of Animal Welfare. 

Josh (centre) pictured with manager, Rachel Kearsey, and Talent and Training Coordinator at the Devonshire Group, Nathan Fairhead.

The apprenticeship included English and maths, and I found that a real challenge at first – but my tutors were great and really helped me to take things at my pace, and my greatest achievement was passing my English and maths Level 1 exams first time. I have nearly finished my apprenticeship now, and I am so much more confident than I was – I talk to the public about the guinea pigs and all the other animals we have here at Chatsworth, and love being able to move around at work when I need to, and to work with such understanding colleagues and tutors.

On Wednesday 20 March 2024, Josh shared his journey with ADHD by presenting a talk at Chatsworth House called ‘From Gaming to Guinea Pigs’. Learning Support Manager at The College of Animal Welfare, Lisa Forrest, was invited along to listen. Lisa commented, “I am so proud of the progress Josh has made, both personally and academically. It was an honour to listen to his talk and to have seen, first-hand, his progression throughout his apprenticeship”.

Interested in our animal care apprenticeship courses? Visit our website to find out more.