An endless conveyor belt of meaningless jobs - some of which involved conveyor belts - left one Black Country lad feeling down and despairing about his work life and future prospects.
But at a Job Centre four years ago Dan Cope's eyes fell on a leaflet detailing apprenticeship courses on offer with a private training provider which set him on a path to completing several engineering qualifications.
The 29-year-old is now embracing a new-found zest for learning as he forges a career in industry as an engineer, currently working as a tool maintenance technician with manufacturer Hozelock where he has his sights set on more training and the next step up.
He told BirminghamLive: "Between the ages of 16 and 24, I was just doing any old job and saw that I needed to do something with my life.
"By 2014 I was quite down and low and was generally looking for anything in terms of work.
"I had reached the age where all of my mates were getting into really good jobs and I was doing things like packing or working on assembly lines.
"Up to that point I had never really thought about a proper career so I started on an engineering course through training provider Performance Through People which included two weeks of work experience at PAL Extrusions in Darlaston.
"I've since done a Level 2 and last year I completed my Level 3 NVQ diploma in engineering."
Since starting out on his new career, he also worked as a self-employed tool repairer at Superite Tools in Walsall and is now at Hozelock, the Birmingham-based gardening products manufacturer.
Originally from Walsall, Dan became involved in Ladder for the Black Country initiative which had the aim of creating 500 new apprenticeship roles across the area.
Organisers were so impressed with his progression that he was named Ladder for the Black Country's Apprentice of the Year in 2015 and has since became an ambassador for the project, meeting Prince Andrew twice who himself is an active supporter.
Last month, Ladder for Greater Birmingham was launched with the aim of creating 1,000 new apprenticeship roles in Birmingham and Solihull.
It is being run by Performance Through People and community development group The Vine Trust with funding from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP and BirminghamLive as media partner.
Looking ahead, Dan says he is having a break from the studying but admits he is keen to get back in the classroom and improve his knowledge further as he strives towards his long-term aim of working for a global engineering giant in the mould of a Jaguar Land Rover.
"My roles so far have all involved working with plastics and I've taken knowledge from every place I've worked and my confidence has grown," he added.
"My employers know that I am keen to learn more and progress - every day is a school day for me - and I am finally doing something that will work out as a great career."
Gill Durkin, business development director at Performance Through People, said: "Dan worked hard and was extremely committed to the programme and was encouraged by the difference it was making to his life.
"After he completed his pre-apprenticeship programme, his work experience employer offered him a permanent job and we offered him a place on our engineering apprenticeship programme.
"Dan encouraged his friends and girlfriend to look at the opportunities that apprenticeships offered and was one of 60 apprentices invited to St James's Palace for afternoon tea.
"He is a great ambassador for apprenticeships and an advocate of the Ladder campaigns."
For more information about Ladder for Greater Birmingham and to get involved visit www.ladderforbirmingham.co.uk or call 03332 409 699.