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South Wales Learners’ Achievements Recognised by VQ Awards Shortlist


The dedication and accomplishments of three outstanding South Wales learners have been recognised by being named as finalists in the prestigious Vocational Qualification (VQ) Awards 2019.

Charlotte O’Brien, Jonathan Thomas, and Reagan Locke have succeeded to impress the judging panel and been recognised as deserving finalists in the Higher Learner of the Year category of this year’s VQ Awards, which are designed to reward individuals and organisations for their commitment, hard work and achievements.

A passion for maths and economics led Charlotte O’Brien to university but she quickly decided that vocational study under the guidance of Cardiff-based ALS Training was better suited to her learning needs and she has not looked back.

She started her career in the Data Science Campus at the Office for National Statistics and the completion of a Level 4 Data Analysis Higher Apprenticeship six months ahead of target was recognised by the ONS who rewarded her with a permanent position.

Currently studying for an Open University degree in Maths and Economics, she has also become a STEM ambassador for ONS which involves visiting local schools and colleges to share her vocational journey.

Jonathan Thomas – or JT as he is known to his Caerphilly and Bristol-based DAS Legal Expenses work colleagues – has followed a vocational learning pathway since leaving school, more than 30 years ago.

The 50-year-old dad of three started with DAS as a Claims Handler, working his way through the ranks as a Trainer, Team Leader, Assistant Manager and now Contact Centre Manager. His latest training successes include ILM Level 5 NVQ Diploma in Management and Leadership, Essential Skills Wales Digital Literacy Level 2, and a Foundation degree in Applied Professional Practice, all delivered in partnership with Cardiff-based ALS Training and Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Reagan Locke’s passion for technical laboratory work with employer Tata Steel Strip Products UK has already seen him travel to the company’s Holland plant as lead technician in an X-Ray Fluorescence improvement project and to Germany to further his analysis.

During his three years with Tata at their Technical Laboratories, he has successfully gained a Higher National Certificate in Applied Chemistry (Distinction) under the guidance of Gower College Swansea, allowing him to move straight into a second year part-time degree course in Chemistry at Swansea University.

He has applied his HNC knowledge to create competency assessments at Tata, improving calibration, accuracy and precision of XRF, leading to cost savings.

Highlighting the importance of vocational qualifications to the economy, companies and individuals, Minister for Education Kirsty Williams said:

“Vocational qualifications provide a broad range of quality training for learners and a supply of skilled workers for employers, bringing in new ideas which can help businesses evolve and innovate.

“The VQ awards are an opportunity to celebrate the skill and commitment of the learners, trainers and employers who are raising the bar in the field of vocational qualifications.

“It’s important we recognise these achievements and to be shortlisted is fantastic, so well done to all the nominees!”

In their 12th year, the VQ Awards celebrate those who use technical, practical and vocational qualifications to achieve success. A Vocational Qualification – VQ- award is a symbol of dedication towards your chosen profession. The awards help us to celebrate those Welsh learners, trainers and employers who are already going that extra mile when it comes to developing vocational skills and qualifications.

There are four award categories – VQ Intermediate Learner of the Year, VQ Higher Learner of the Year, VQ Trainer of the Year and VQ Employer of the Year – which encompass the spectrum of learning, training and employment.

The winners will be announced at a prestigious awards ceremony held at the National Museum Cardiff on May 15. The ceremony coincides with VQ Day, which celebrates vocational achievement and the benefits of technical, practical and vocational learning to both the individual and the Welsh economy.

The awards are jointly organised by the Welsh Government, the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), ColegauCymru/CollegesWales, Qualifications Wales and the Education Workforce Council. The Welsh Government’s funding has support from the European Social Fund.