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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

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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