Twenty-one of the finest apprentices working in Wales have had their hard work and dedication celebrated at a special awards ceremony in the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay.
The lavish event was the first-ever Annual Awards ceremony held by the Quality Skills Alliance – a consortium of work-based learning providers made up of 22 partners and subcontractors. The awards celebrate excellence and achievement, and the winners were chosen by a panel comprising the QSA’s chair and representatives from the Confederation of British Industry and the Welsh Government’s Department for Education and Skills.
QSA Chair Kay Martin said: “It has been a pleasure to celebrate the achievements each and every winner at the QSA Annual Awards. Apprenticeships are an important vocational route to a long and fruitful career. This Awards Evening demonstrates precisely the positive impact work based learning can have and the opportunities it can create. It also reminds me what a pleasure it is to be chair of this unique consortium.”
One of the winners was Dylan Rees, who is on a Sporting Excellence Apprenticeship with Cardiff City Football Club. Dylan has been registered with Cardiff City FC’s Academy since the age of ten and achieved an apprenticeship at 16 despite living in Tenby and making a three-hour round trip to attend training and play on weeks.
Dylan said: “I feel very privileged to even be nominated for an award, let alone to win one. I feel that is has given me more confidence and determination to reach my goal of making it as a professional football player. I am happy that all of the travelling and hard work to get where I am today is making an impact on my career and I thank all of my friends and family for supporting me.”
The twenty-four-year-old added: “I would recommend the apprenticeship route to others because of the guidance and support I have, both with my coaching staff on the pitch and my education mentors off the pitch. The apprenticeship offers many challenges such as living away from home in my case, but that makes me more independent which will help me in the future.”
Another winner was 22-year-old Sharna Penny from Newbridge. Sharna had been offered places at a number of top universities but turned them down in favour of an engineering apprenticeship as she was this as an entrée to a future job without incurring student debt. She is now working with Zodiac Seating as an engineering apprentice and receives training from NDTGA.
“Apprenticeships were always made to seem like a route chosen for those who performed poorly at school that would not provide any prestigious qualifications,” Sharna said. “Upon learning differently; learning that apprenticeships provide high-quality skills and qualifications, I decided to apply hoping that I would finally enter the field that I had been interested in.
“My training provider, NDTGA, has provided constant support and guidance throughout my training. They have developed assignments and work plans that help me push my limits, while providing firm educational grounding. I believe that NDGTA plays a key role in my career path with regards to education, support and guidance.
“Apprenticeships are routes to prestigious qualifications, applicable skills and valuable experience. I would highly recommend this route to anyone who wants to push themselves towards success without the stress of extensive student loans.”
Creative and Digital Media apprentice Natalie Connell also won a QSA Award. Natalie works for BBC Wales with training provider CYFLE and has worked on programmes such as Pobol y Cwm and Casualty, and has been asked to become a supplier to Casualty when she finishes her apprenticeship.
“I was eager to get stuck into the creative working world, to establish myself within the industry and begin building the blocks of my career,” 18-year-old Natalie from Chepstow explained. “This apprenticeship is by far the pathway best suited to my career aspirations in the creative and digital industry. In my opinion it is an ideal position to be in – an opportunity to be in the right place in a time of technology and industry influx.
“The apprenticeship provides relevant training in an active working environment – the combination of which is rarely found anywhere else other than through an apprenticeship scheme.”
Natalie added that the CYFLE team, mentor and head of department could not have given her better support, making her transition from sixth form student to apprentice/ employee as natural as possible. She wants to progress into freelance work in the creative sector, providing graphic design and digital artwork as well as clothing and installations.
Chris Carmody, a Heating & Ventilation Apprentice with Whitehead Building Services and training provider BEST, is no stranger to awards ceremonies. The 21-year-old from Llanrumney won BEST Ltd Building Engineering Services Industry Apprentice of the Year Award in his first, second and fourth years of training and has also won Silver in the UK-wide Pipefitters Skill Competition.
“I feel privileged to have won the QSA Award as my job is something I enjoy doing and I have pride in doing it,” Chris said. “I was always determined to get an apprenticeship in the mechanical sector after a one-year Heating & Ventilation course at college, so I knew the job suited me and I suited the job.
“I have had great support from my company, Whitehead Building Services, my tutors at Cardiff and Vale College and my training adviser at BEST. Without all three of these I would not have been able to achieve the achievements I have – I would definitely recommend apprenticeships!”
Chris intends to gain further experience in fitting and welding and become the best heating engineer possible and eventually progress through training into being a site foreman.
Another example of work-based learning excellence was Rachel Jones, a Sustainable Resource Management apprentice with LCC Wales and training provider Smart Development. Rachel completed an 18-month qualification in just nine months and her employer has marked her out as an asset to her team who has excellent prospects for career progression.
Steffan Edwards, Commercial Director at Smart Development, said: “We’re delighted to see Rachel win Apprentice of the Year at this year’s QSA Awards. She has worked extremely hard to complete her qualification, and we have seen her flourish during this time. She has taken on new challenges and has developed new processes at LCC Wales to improve efficiency. The award is thoroughly deserved.
“At Smart Development, we think that it’s essential that our apprentice learners have a working environment that sees them become an asset to the company and allows for their career progression. We work with colleges, such as Cardiff and Vale College, to provide training opportunities for staff within companies of all sizes, from sole traders to large multinationals. It’s great to see apprentices rewarded for their positive impact, enthusiasm and energy to learn.”
The awards had been generously supported by sponsorship from the Confederation of British Industry, Institute of the Motor Industry and JGR Group. QSA apprenticeships are funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.
Notes to editors
- Photos show the winners at the QSA Awards
- The Quality Skills Alliance is a consortium of work based learning providers made up of 22 partners and subcontractors. The partners are Cardiff and Vale College Apprenticeships, Coleg y Cymoedd, BEST, Focus on Training and NDGTA with subcontractors Brothers Constantinou, Kaplan, Smart Development, JGR Group, Wales Centre for Pharmacy Professional Education, CYFLE, Bosch, the Work Based Training Agency, BEMA, IETA, Cardiff City FC, JTL, the Automotive Academy, Cunningham and Lindsey, Skillnet, Safe and Secure Training and Remit
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For more information contact:
Cardiff and Vale College