NCTJ course “proved life-changing for me” says successful BBC Online reporter.

Kevin Leonard is a successful journalist and reporter for BBC News Online, based in Cardiff.

Originally from Pontypridd, Kevin did a degree in geography at Manchester University after leaving school. Following university he then took a year out doing a variety of jobs including being a film extra and it was about this time he first became interested in journalism, writing for a football fanzine and doing work experience at various newspapers.

Kevin has now been a journalist for nearly 17 years having attended the NCTJ one-year course in Sheffield in 1993. He’s worked as a reporter for the Kidderminster Shuttle and South Wales Echo, and was also chief designer for the Celtic weekly newspapers.

Speaking about his NCTJ training, Kevin says: “I completed a one-year NCTJ newspaper pre-entry course in Sheffield in 1993 and it proved life-changing for me for two reasons. Firstly, it enabled me to gain the necessary skills to get a job on a newspaper within weeks of leaving the course. Secondly, I met my wife on the course - yes, we're still together.”

“You may not meet your future partner but you will certainly be fully equipped to work as a journalist in the industry.”

Kevin believes the core journalistic skills he learnt on his NCTJ-accredited course have helped him immensely in his career.

He says: “It is vital to learn some basic skills before trying to get a job in the industry. Obviously you need to learn how to find and write stories, but there's also media law, knowing how central and local government works, and shorthand.”

“If you don't know your licensing sub-committee from your county council executive then you will struggle on a local or regional newspaper. If your law is not up to scratch then you could make some very expensive errors which could land your editor in jail - not a great career move.”

“Don't underestimate shorthand either. I've used it every working day of my 16-year working life, although my teeline outlines appear harder to decipher every day. Yes, it's also desirable to have a few technical skills such as shooting and editing video, but make sure you get the basics sorted first.”

Kevin joined the BBC in 1999 and has since worked on the newsdesk, in the political unit, on television news, and now on news online. He says that his NCTJ training has been useful across all those media.

“Whatever job you end up doing - I work on the BBC News website in Cardiff - you'll never regret getting those key journalism skills hammered home on an NCTJ course.”

“With apologies to the well known advert, the National Council for the Training of Journalists does exactly what it says on the tin.”