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Education

4,000 attend SkillsCymru

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Learning how to lay bricks: Ella Haf Rees and Steffan Evans

YOUNG people from across Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire were given a taste of different career options at SkillsCymru, a regional careers fair featuring more than 100 employers, which took place during Apprenticeship Week at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli last Thursday and Friday (Mar 9-10).

Organised by Careers Wales and Coleg Sir Gâr, and supported by the Welsh Government and European Social Fund, the event was designed to inspire and educate visitors about the variety of different careers and vocational routes available to them.

More than 4,000 young people attended the free event over the two days.

Members of the public also attended the event to find out more about their career options, vocational routes and apprenticeship courses with some of Wales’ biggest companies such as Welsh Water, Principality and Bluestone Leisure Resorts.

Visitors were able to try their hand at virtual welding, creating short animations and driving a tractor using the Welsh Government’s state-of-the-art ‘have a go’ equipment, designed to increased participation in vocational pathways.

Attendees also tested their vocational skills by taking part in a range of interactive activities offered by employers who attended the event, from giving manicures and styling hair to laying bricks and making exotic mocktails.

Ffion Anderson, 15, from Maes y Gwendraeth School, said: “I really enjoyed visiting the science stands such as the NHS Wales and Cardiff University Medical School because I’d really like to become a surgeon or a cardiologist when I’m older.

“It was great seeing the ultrasound equipment on the NHS stand, the pictures you can get are so clear it’s amazing, it was so fascinating and made me realise I definitely want to go into the medical profession.

“I’m hoping to get into a Welsh university and study part of the course in the Welsh language, so it was useful to be able to talk to some people from the NHS about the sort of grades I’ll need and extra activities that might help my application to medical school.”

Steffan Evans, 14, from Ysgol Dyffryn Aman, said: “Coming along to Skills Cymru Carmarthenshire was a real eye opener for me as there were so many different things to see and do.

“I’d really like to become a geography teacher at a secondary school when I’m older, as I really love the subject and I’ve been really inspired by my own geography teacher, Mrs Campbell.

“Even though I’ve got a clear idea of what I want to do, it’s good to see how many different jobs there are available.”

Minister for Skills and Science Julie James attended the event, talking to employers and apprentices about the career options they were there to promote, and taking part in some of the ‘have a go’ activities.

She said: “It was inspiring to see so many young people from across Carmarthenshire thinking about their futures and talking to some of the biggest employers in the country.

“Those faced with choosing their next steps, whether it’s going to college, university or straight into the world of work, have big decisions to make and careers events like this help them to decide their future.

“Seeing some of Wales’ biggest employers attend the event demonstrates their commitment to investing in the future of Wales’s workforce, helping inspire the next generation to think about all pathways, including vocational routes into work.”

Richard Spear, chief executive of Careers Wales, added: “Organising events like these is key to helping young people learn more about the many different jobs and careers they could pursue.

“We often work with young people who are unsure about their next steps, not knowing what sector to go into. It’s our job to help them recognise what their skills are most suited towards and match their talents to a career.

“Careers events like SkillsCymru are a great opportunity to have an open and honest discussion with a huge variety of employers all in one place about what sort of qualifications and skills they look for, as well as asking apprentices about their course and experiences.”

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Education

Acorn Antics Achievement

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From little acorns: Learning can grow

LEARNERS from all over Wales have been taking part in Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) biggest ever Acorn Antics campaign.

Over ​30 education and learning groups collected approximately 386,400 acorns in three weeks – enough to plant 257 football pitches full of oak trees.

The Acorn Antics project, which takes place each year, helps NRW plant more trees which have been grown from local seeds.

The project also gives young people the opportunity to learn about, and connect with, the natural environment in Wales.

Ffion Hughes, Education Co-ordinator, Natural Resources Wales said: “We piloted the project in North East Wales over the last two years, but this year we opened the opportunity to education groups across Wales.

“The reponse has been huge and we’re proud to help more people get outside and learn about our woodlands and forests.

“In three to four years we will be able to replant the succesful saplings in the area they were found as acorns.”

Education groups such as Brownies, Cylch Meithrin, Scouts and primary schools took part.

With acorns collected from school grounds and country parks. Some were even collected from the grounds of a tennis centre and an art gallery.

Ffion continued: “We want to thank everyone who organised or took part in collections, and the landowners who gave permission for groups to collect acorns from their sites.

“2017 has been a great year for Acorn Antics which will help ensure there will be plenty of Welsh oaks for the future.”

NRW have sent the acorns to the Forestry Commission tree nursery in Cheshire where they will be grown into saplings.

Replanting local seeds helps reduce the risk of spreading pests and diseases which can devastate forests.

Oak trees help provide a home for wildlife, and help reduce the effects of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

They can also help reduce flood risk and help create great places for people to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

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Education

Keynote speech at Natural History Museum

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Microfossils: Relevant to the future

DR MARTIN BATES was one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Micropalaeontological Society Annual Conference held at the Natural History Museum

The conference theme was ‘Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History’ and was open to all aspects of micropalaeontology. The title of Dr Bates’ keynote speech was Barriers, beaches and landscape change in Prehistoric Orkney: the contribution of microfossils which he presented jointly with Dr John Whittaker from the Natural History Museum.

The annual conference attracts international academics and experts but particularly encourages postgraduate students and early career researchers to take part, with awards for the best oral and poster sessions available for those early in their micropalaeontology careers. This conference helps support the work of the Micropalaeontological Society (TMS) which exists ‘to advance the education of the public in the study of Micropalaeontology’ and is operated ‘exclusively for scientific and educational purposes and not for profit’.

Based at the University’s Lampeter campus, geoarchaeologist Dr Martin Bates has a research focus on soils and sediments from archaeological sites and the geoscience of submerged landscapes.

He said: “I was delighted to take part in this year’s Micropalaeontological Society Annual Conference held at the Natural History Museum. It was particularly enjoyable to present a talk jointly with John after working together for so long in the field and laboratory but never sharing the same stage.

“The talk focused on what happens when sea levels rise and flood formerly dry land areas. A topic that is pertinent not only to the past but also perhaps the future.”

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Education

Google for Education in Wales

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Teachers to get digital tools: Kirsty Williams

TEACHERS will soon have more choice about the digital tools they use thanks to the roll-out of Google for Education, Kirsty Williams has announced.

The new software is a direct result of feedback from schools and will be made available through Hwb – the digital learning platform for Wales which provides a range of centrally-funded, bilingual digital tools and resources.

Latest statistics for October 2017 show that there were a total of 736,813 log-ins to Hwb during the month – a 55% increase over October 2016 – which equates to an average of over 23,000 log-ins every day.

As well as announcing plans for the roll-out of Google for Education, the Cabinet Secretary also provided an update on other areas of the Learning in Digital Wales (LiDW) programme.

This included progress on investing in School Broadband – a Taking Wales Forward commitment to provide superfast broadband to all schools in Wales.

This will provide fibre connections for 343 schools across Wales via the PSBA network and will ensure schools are able to access the range of tools and resources available via Hwb, as well as supporting the new curriculum.

The Cabinet Secretary announced that to date, over a third of targeted schools have been upgraded to faster speeds.

Guidance will also be published shortly to help schools understand how local area network issues can affect their internet connectivity and how they can make the best use of investment from the LiDW programme.

Kirsty Williams said: “We want our teachers to have access to the best digital tools and resources and the best quality superfast broadband.

“We have listened to the feedback we’ve been receiving from schools and I’m very pleased that, as a result of their feedback, we will be rolling out Google for Education in 2018.

“This will give our teachers a much wider range of digital tools and resources and will lead to greater collaboration and communication within the classroom.”

As a result of ongoing feedback, the Welsh Government will also not be renewing the Hwb+ virtual learning platform once the current contract expires in August 2018.

Schools, local authorities and regional education consortia will be contacted to ensure they are ready to take advantage of the new digital tools and can make the transition from the Hwb+ platform next year.

Liz Sproat from Google for Education said: “We congratulate the Welsh Government for their commitment to provide the very best education to learners across Wales. We’re delighted that Google’s education tools will be made available to schools via the Hwb platform and look forward to supporting them on their journey with us.”

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