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Education

Welsh students make Wold Skills squad

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Medal hope: Alfie Hopkin

FOUR WELSH competitors have been selected to represent the UK in the largest international skills competition, WorldSkills, held in Abu Dhabi in October this year.

Joseph Massey, 23, from Coleg Cambria; Alfie Hopkin, 18, from Llanelli, Elizabeth Forkuoh, 20, from Llanelli and Ethan Davies, 21, from Mynydd Isa have been recognised as the UK’s most highly skilled young people in their industry, and will travel almost 5,000 miles to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) to compete against the best students, apprentices and employees in the world.

Held every two years, WorldSkills International sees more than one thousand young people, aged 18 to 25, come together from seventy-seven countries to compete for medals in fifty-one skill competitions, including CNC Milling, Restaurant Service, Web Design and Aeronautical Engineering.

As part of Team UK, these four Welsh youngsters will showcase their skills by demonstrating their technical abilities in specific tasks, which they study or conduct in their workplace, over the course of six days.

Elizabeth Forkuoh is no stranger to skills competitions having this year being awarded a British Education Award, which recognises her competition success including winning a UK-wide gold award for restaurant services at the Skills Show at Birmingham NEC in 2015. Receiving nationwide recognition for her skills.

As well as working at the Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli, she is currently studying an NVQ level three diploma in hospitality supervision and leadership at Coleg Sir Gâr’s Pibwrlwyd campus following successful completion of qualifications in professional cookery, professional food and beverage and barista skills.

Elizabeth said: “WorldSkills has enabled me to travel the UK and receive training from some of the best restaurants in the country. For example I’ve trained at the Ritz and Michel Roux Jnr’s two Michelin star restaurant, where they actually offered me a job!

“I’m so excited to be able to compete on an international level, it’s something I’ve dreamed about for years now and I can hardly believe I’ll be going. Being part of the competition is such an amazing experience. From the people I’ve met and the new skills I’ve learnt, to the places I’ve travelled to and worked in, none of it would have been possible without WorldSkills.”

Alfie Hopkin, who is studying a level three extended diploma in IT in Llanelli, began his competition journey in 2015 when he won the Welsh heat of a web design competition run by Skills Competitions Wales, the launch pad into the international skills arena. He then won a bronze award in the national final and was selected for Squad UK with four other competitors. He has gained the only place available in the UK team to compete in web design at Abu Dhabi following a recent team selection event in Manchester. He will begin intense training in the UK and overseas including competing in the Canadian web design final in Winnipeg in May.

All four Welsh contenders were invited to compete in the selection process after excelling at the Skills Competition Wales and WorldSkills UK National Competitions, the finals of which take place at The Skills Show each November.

Backed by the Welsh Government through the European Social Fund, these competitions promote the importance of developing a highly skilled workforce and world-class individuals.

Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James said: “Congratulations to all four competitors on their way to represent the nation. The number of Welsh members in Team UK is a testament not only to their hard work and determination but also the support from their families, and training from Welsh colleges, training providers and employers.

“Wales has been competing in WorldSkills for many years and has nurtured some of the most highly-skilled young people in a range of industries. Taking part in WorldSkills competitions enables the whole of Wales to benefit. Not only do competitors return to the country to inspire others to follow in their footsteps but they also bring their knowledge and experience to the workplace, helping develop skills and setting high industry standards.

“However, the journey neither starts nor ends with WorldSkills international – there is a cycle of programme development behind Welsh involvement in competitions which allows colleges and training providers to benchmark and quality assure themselves against the best in the world, encouraging continuous professional development and raising our teaching standards. We wish Joseph, Alfie, Elizabeth and Ethan good luck in Abu Dhabi and look forward to following their journey.”

As Skills Champion for Wales, college principal Barry Liles is at the helm of Wales’ involvement in skills competitions and is passionate about promoting the nation at international level. Coleg Sir Gâr also leads the Welsh Government funded project, Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales, which supports Welsh competitors training to compete nationally and internationally.

He said: “The competitions aim to inspire young people to be ambitious and exceptional within their area of expertise.

“Driving excellence in skills helps businesses to compete and in turn helps Wales and the UK proudly compete in a global market. I am thrilled with Wales’ performance and very proud of our Coleg Sir Gâr students.”

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Education

Free school meals opportunity for WG

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No reason to make Wales' poorest children pay: Bevan Foundation Director calls for investment

THE WELSH G​OVERNMENT​ has a unique opportunity to make sure that children from low-income families don’t go hungry, writes Victoria Winckler, Director of the Bevan Foundation.

Each year, around one in six of Wales’ school pupils claims a free school meal because their parents receive a benefit such as Employment and Support Allowance, Job Seekers’ Allowance or Income Support. At around £2.50 a go – £12.50 a week per child – this is quite a big help.

And the benefits of a nutritious midday meal are not just financial: a decent meal contributes to better concentration in the afternoon and ensures low income children have better diets too.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT CHANGES

The introduction of Universal Credit means that new rules about who can get a free school meal are needed. Universal Credit is set to be in place for new claimants in all parts of Wales by the end of 2018. The process of switching existing claimants to UC will take place gradually from 2019.

Universal Credit is paid to families where someone is working as well as families which are out-of-work. This means that the old rules for getting a free school meal can no longer be used.

In anticipation of this, the National Assembly for Wales passed the Free School Lunches and Milk (Universal Credit) (Wales) Order in 2013.

Put simply, this piece of secondary legislation enabled the children of all recipients of UC to receive a free school meal, irrespective of circumstances, while the benefit was being rolled out.

In practice, the numbers of children who benefited from the new rule were likely to be very small as the roll-out of UC doesn’t apply to claimants with children.

As Universal Credit is set to be rolled-out to all types of households, including those with children, the UK Government is cutting back on eligibility.

The plan is that children in families receiving UC which have an income from work of more than £7,400 will not be eligible for a free school meal.

The move has prompted a row in the House of Commons about the UK Government allegedly ‘taking away’ free meals from a million children, with equally furious counter claims.

It’s worth checking Channel 4’s Full Fact for the details, however.

CHANNEL 4 FULL FACT ANALYSIS

There’s some respectable maths behind Labour’s claim that a million children will lose out on free school meals after the government introduces a means test.

But they haven’t mentioned two key points:

  • No one who is currently eligible for free school meals under Universal Credit will lose their entitlement.
  • In fact, under Universal Credit, 50,000 more children will receive school meals by 2022 than would have done under the previous benefits system.

This is not a case of the government taking free school meals from a million children who are currently receiving them: it’s about comparing two future, hypothetical scenarios. Both of them are more generous than the old benefits system.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN WALES?

Universal Credit, as everyone knows, is not devolved. But free school meals are. It is for the Welsh Government to decide who can receive a free meal.

Provision is already less generous in England, where all infant pupils get a free meal regardless of their families’ income. The question is whether the Welsh Government will follow the same route as the UK Government for children in families receiving Universal Credit.

WHAT ABOUT THE COST?

Because the UK government has limited the eligibility for free meals in England there’s no Barnett consequential to help cover the cost of increasing eligibility in Wales.

But that is no reason to make Wales’ poorest children pay.

Aneurin Bevan famously said in 1949 ‘the language of priorities is the religion of Socialism‘. And on this he was right.

At the same time as Wales’ least well-off children have to pay £12.50 a week for a dinner, there’s free bus travel on the Traws Cymru service for anyone, a subsidised canteen for Assembly Members and government officials, and free swimming for over-60s.

If you had to choose who got the freebie, who would you select?

Any change to the rules will be via an order to be considered by the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.

If the Welsh Government is serious about the well-being of future generations, there is not better case for investing in the health and education of Wales’ children than this.

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Education

Gold for Ammanford skills pair

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Joshua Richards: Faced network security challenges

A 15-YEAR-OLD from Ammanford has won a gold medal in the final of a national skills competition.

Backed by the Welsh Government through the European Social Fund, Skills Competition Wales is a series of events held in colleges across the country, designed to celebrate vocational skills and create highly skilled, talented employees for the Welsh workforce.

Shane Ellis, 15, who is currently studying for an Entry Level BTEC at Coleg Sir Gar, competed against students from across Wales in a wood working challenge. The competitors were tasked with creating a wooden box using different woodworking joints.

Shane said: “I’d heard about the competition from a friend, and at first I thought I was too young to apply. When I found out that I could actually go for it, I entered myself into the competition straight away.”

“I felt confident during the competition, because I’d practised using the saw on different joints in my carpentry classes lots before, in preparation for the competition.

“I really enjoy wood work, so I’m hoping to do more carpentry as part of my course next year, and hopefully become a carpenter when I finish college.”

Shane will be joined by 17-year-old Joshua Richard, also from Ammanford, who won a gold medal in computing.

Joshua is currently studying for a Level 3 BTEC in Computing at Coleg Sir Gar, and he competed against students from across Wales in a series of network security challenges.

The competitors were tasked with a range of challenges, from using a Windows virtual machine and setting it up with firewall rules and group policies to using a Cisco Packet Tracer simulation tool to set up a secure wireless network.

Joshua said: “I really enjoyed taking part in the competition this year. I competed last year in the IT Technician Skills Competition, so it was great to be able to compete again, but in a different category this time.

“Once I finish this course I’m hoping to go to the University of South Wales and do a degree in cyber security and forensics. I particularly enjoy learning about the crime side of IT security.

“I’ve loved computers since I was young. I enjoyed IT lessons at school but always felt that I wanted to do more, so working on computers became more of a hobby outside of school. My dad is always fixing computers too, so maybe my interest in computers had something to do with growing up watching him at work.”

More than 50 competitions are taking place this year, across a wide range of different vocations from bricklaying and hairdressing to aeronautical engineering and culinary art.

The successful youngsters may then go on to be shortlisted for the UK Squad, competing against the world’s most talented young people at the EuroSkills competition in Austria, in 2020, or the WorldSkills international final in Shanghai in 2021.

Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan said: “Competitions like these are essential for establishing transferable skills for the future, and allow young people at the start of their careers to flourish.

“They provide individuals from Wales with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills as well as the chance to go further and compete on a national or even international level.

“I would like to congratulate Shane and Joshua on their brilliant achievements and wish them the best of luck in the next stage of the competition and I look forward to seeing them prosper in their future careers.”

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Education

Sky high opportunities with RAF

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Reaching for the sky: Students find out about RAF careers

PUBLIC services students at Coleg Sir Gâr have seen how their careers can take off with the help of the Royal Air Force.

A corporal and a warrant officer, who have served as far as Afghanistan, Copenhagen, Germany and Norway, visited the college, highlighting the global opportunities of the RAF.

Careers span from air traffic and fighter controllers, logistics, police, medicine and dentistry to survival equipment specialist.

Amanda Morgan, public services course leader at Coleg Sir Gâr said: “Visits such as these are vital for students to see for themselves what the opportunities are working for British forces and the team gave an excellent insight into RAF life and what opportunities and qualifications can be gained.

“They also offered an insight into its range of fighter aircraft used to protect the UK’s airspace, their combat air capability and how some models can gather airborne intelligence, it was an interesting and inspiring insight.”

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