Deeside aerospace engineering business Electroimpact UK Ltd completed a notable double at the Vocational Qualification (VQ) Awards ceremony last night (Tuesday).
The Hawarden-based business collected the VQ Employer of the Year and its UK manufacturing lead Matthew Booth was named VQ Trainer of the Year at the ceremony held at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff on the eve of VQ Day on June 7.
The coveted annual awards, organised by the Welsh Government, National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), ColegauCymru / CollegesWales and Qualifications Wales, celebrate those who use technical, practical and vocational qualifications to achieve success. The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.
The VQ Learner of Year (Intermediate) award winner was Alys Evans, 18, of Gilfach Goch, a Patisserie and Confectionery student at Coleg y Cymoedd, Nantgarw while the VQ Learner of Year (Higher) award went to Julie Mundy from Seren Cyf, Blaenau Ffestiniog who was nominated by Cambrian Training Company.
Investment in work-based learning has helped Electroimpact UK Ltd grow its workshop by 50 per cent more than planned and led to national and international awards for its skilled apprentices.
The company immersed its employees in the opportunities provided by vocational qualifications four years ago. Matthew completed a Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4) in Leadership so that he could lead by example before introducing the training to apprentices and employees.
The company, which employs 150 staff, currently has five of its 10 machine room employees working towards or in receipt of vocational qualifications.
“Vocational training has allowed us to build an extremely skilled workforce. Our skilled apprentices have gone on to win national competitions and awards as well as international competitions while representing our company and country,” added Matthew.
Electroimpact UK Ltd had apprentices at WorldSkills UK and international competitions for the past two years, winning two gold, one silver and a bronze medal. One apprentice went to the EuroSkills finals in Sweden, winning a medallion of excellence.
The company has worked with training provider Coleg Cambria to deliver its training.
“Electroimpact is a model of how a company should use vocational training,” said Vicky Barwis, director at Coleg Cambria. “The apprentices, although part of a small cohort, receive world class training and additional mentoring and coaching to achieve excellence in skills competitions as well as achieving high marks in their qualifications.”
Matthew, from Brymbo near Wrexham, began his career as an apprentice toolmaker 20 years ago and undertook training while developing his career. He has also gained his EngTech accreditation though IMechE and has also worked with SEMTA, a body promoting STEM subjects in the UK, to develop a Master Craftsman qualification.
Alys Evans’ passion and skill for cake baking and decorating has put her on a successful career path that has seen her head to Barcelona for work experience in a Japanese/Catalonian patisserie. She is working towards a level three qualification in Patisserie and Confectionery at Coleg y Cymoedd.
She won a series of gold, silver and bronze awards at the Welsh International Culinary Championships, received a gold City & Guilds medal for outstanding achievement and a gold at Cake International in London.
She also landed a £1,000 award to help develop her baking and decorating skills and prepare her for a future career in the industry.
Coleg y Cymoedd entrepreneurship champion Lesley Cottrell said:
“Alys continues to amaze us. She is talented not only in terms of her baking, but also in her business acumen.”
“I love baking and decorating and helping others improve their skills and would love to run my own mobile cake and cupcakes business alongside a cake shop and bakery.”
Julie Mundy, 52, has turned the disappointment of redundancy into a rewarding new career opportunity with a Seren Cyf, which supports adults with learning disabilities.
The mother of three from Minffordd, near Porthmadog, leads a team of eight recycling furniture and textiles collected from the community around Blaenau Ffestiniog and her passion for lifelong learning has seen her complete a Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4) in Systems and Operations Management.
She was forced to find a new job more than five years ago when she was made redundant.
“It was an opportunity to find something that I really wanted to do because I never really thought about a career when I was bringing my kids up,” she said.
“The chance to recycle furniture with Seren Cyf was a big pull and I also wanted to support people with learning difficulties.”
She’s proud to be the first learner with Cambrian Training Company to complete the Level 4 Diploma in Systems and Operations Management and managed it in less than two years.
Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James congratulated the winners and all the finalists.
“A vocational qualification – VQ award is a symbol of dedication towards your chosen profession,” she said. “The awards help us to celebrate those Welsh employers, learners and trainers who are already going that extra mile when it comes to developing vocational skills and qualifications.
“If the Welsh economy is to continue to grow then we must ensure that employers, individuals, training providers and the Welsh Government work together to invest in the right skills for success in order to equip Wales with a world-class workforce.
“Vocational qualifications have never been more important to the economy and the individual, as they deliver the trained, talented employees that businesses are crying out for and ensure individuals have the skills needed to succeed in education and work.”
The other finalists were: VQ Learner of the Year (Intermediate): Jason Hyam, 34, of Cardiff, from Arthur J. Gallagher, Llantrisant, who was nominated by Acorn Learning Solutions and Maria Brooks, 29, from Ford Motor Company, Bridgend, who was nominated by Bridgend College. VQ Learner of the Year (Higher): Christine Thomas from Newport City Council’s waste management department who was nominated by Safe and Secure Training and Mitchell Rees, 21, from Merthyr Tydfil, who was nominated by Bridgend College. VQ Trainer of the Year: Gwenno Jones, 28, from Portal Training, Cardiff and Lisa Winter, from Arthur J. Gallagher, Llantrisant, who was nominated by Acorn Learning Solutions, Newport. VQ Employer of the Year: Arthur J. Gallagher, Llantrisant, nominated by Acorn Learning Solutions and Mainetti, Wrexham, nominated by Cambrian Training Company.