THE IMPORTANCE of vocational qualifications to the Welsh economy was emphasised at the launch of this year’s VQ Awards in Wales at the Senedd in Cardiff.
Speakers called for vocational qualifications to have parity of esteem with academic qualifications and for the Welsh Government to continue prioritising investment in the sector.
Iestyn Davies, chief executive of ColegauCymru/CollegesWales, said Wales was one of the remaining parts of the world where there had been a reluctance to recognise the value of vocational qualifications.
Academic qualifications had hogged the limelight when young people were considering a career path. However, he believed a significant change was underway with politicians now accepting the key importance of vocational qualifications to the economy of Wales.
He called on the people assembled at the launch event to spread the word about the success of vocational qualifications and lifelong learning in Wales to ensure that the Welsh Government continued to prioritise investment in the sector.
Vikki Howells, AM for Cynon Valley, who sponsored the launch event, said during her 16-year teaching career she had wished that there was a greater vocational offer for her students.
There remained a challenge to make young people and their parents, who played a crucial role in directing their children, embrace everything that vocational qualifications had to offer.
She praised the Welsh Government for the work it had already done and continued to do to promote vocational qualifications.
The VQ 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.
The Education Workforce Council’s chair Angela Jardine said it was exciting to be a new partner in the high-profile awards which celebrated the success and high standards achieved in vocational education to create the Wales of the future.
By maintaining a Register of Education Practitioners, the council aimed to contribute to improving the standards of teaching and the quality of learning in Wales. The register would provide the professional evidence to achieve parity of esteem between vocational and academic qualifications, she added.
Sarah John, chair of the NTfW, said: “The VQ Awards provide a great opportunity for learners, employers and their trainers to celebrate and publicise the positive impact that vocational qualifications have on the lives of individuals and the productivity of businesses in Wales. Upskilling in the changing vocational skills needed by businesses to be competitive is critical as they continue to evolve.”
Cassy Taylor, Associate Director for Vocational Qualifications with Qualifications Wales, said: “Vocational qualifications are the gateway to a rewarding career and we are delighted to be sponsoring the VQ Awards again this year.
“The awards are a perfect way to showcase the talent of learners and the commitment of tutors and employers to develop the skills in our workforce that are the bedrock of the economy.”
Stacey Davies, Human Resources Manager at Gestamp Tallent Ltd, an automotive manufacturer from Llanelli, spoke about the company winning the VQ Employer of the Year Award last year.
“Winning this prestigious award was an immensely proud moment for the plant,” she said. “To be recognised for the early accomplishments of an ambitious but exciting learning and development strategy continues to be very encouraging for all the stakeholders.”
Vocational qualifications play a key role in the Gestamp Tallent Growth Programme, which aims to upskill the entire workforce by creating tailor-made, individual development plans, revamping an apprenticeship programme and introducing leadership and management solutions and a programme for high potential employees.
The VQ Awards are designed to recognise and celebrate star learners, trainers and employers in every part of Wales who have used technical, practical and vocational qualifications to achieve success.
Nominations are now sought in four categories: VQ Intermediate Learner of the Year, VQ Higher Learner of the Year, VQ Trainer of the Year and VQ Employer of the Year. It’s easy to enter the awards. Just download a nomination form at https://www.vqday.wales which has full details about the awards. The closing date is noon on March 8.
From the entries, a panel of judges will select the category finalists for a high-profile awards ceremony to be held at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff on May 15 to coincide with VQ Day.
Back to school song competition
CALLING all budding Ed Sheeran’s and Ariana Grande’s – it’s time to put your songwriting skills to the test!
Council leader and composer Cllr Emlyn Dole has written a song especially to welcome children back to school following the coronavirus pandemic.
Mynd ‘nôl i’r Ysgol is about the excitement of going back to school to catch up with teachers and friends, and all the fun the children will have when they are there.
The song has been recorded by popular Welsh singer Gwenda Owen from Pontyberem, who is also Cllr Dole’s wife.
Cllr Dole is asking Carmarthenshire primary school pupils for their help to finish it by writing another verse.
The winning pupils will have the opportunity to sing and record the song in a studio with Gwenda at the start of the new school year in September.
Cllr Dole said: “It has been a difficult time for everyone over the last few months, but particularly for our children who have been home from school and missing their friends and teachers.
“We wanted to celebrate their return to school, and I wrote this song to welcome them back and everything they have to look forward to.
“It wasn’t our intention to turn it into a competition at first, but then we had the idea to challenge our primary schools to write another verse.
“I am really excited to see what the children come up with and I would like to wish everyone the best of luck, but most importantly to please just have fun.”
Information on how to enter the competition has been sent to all primary schools in Carmarthenshire. The deadline for entries is Friday, July 17 and the winner will be announced at the start of the autumn term.
Video link: https://vimeo.com/434292752
Adoption worker’s back to school story
RACHEL Cook has always wanted to write a children’s story.
But she has never been able to find the time to sit down and do it.
And then the coronavirus pandemic happened – which gave her some free time and also the inspiration too.
Rachel, who works for Carmarthenshire County Council as an adoption support worker, used her time during lockdown to write and illustrate Sammy Sloth Goes Back to School.
The story will hopefully help children who are feeling anxious about going back to school after being home for so long.
Rachel, aged 36, who has always worked with vulnerable children and children with additional learning needs, said: “I have always enjoyed being creative and have dreamed of writing short children’s stories and illustrating them for a long time.
“I never imagined that the first story I would write would be about a pandemic, but in times of so much change and uncertainty I found myself thinking of the many children I’ve supported over the years through transitions and how challenging this would be for so many.
“Children often find change particularly challenging, and with the changes approaching us as we begin to return to school, with it may come a mix of emotions and feelings. Stories are a natural way for children to learn about their feelings, to help them learn that their experiences of feeling worried or nervous about returning to school are faced by many.
“This story focuses on the familiar, particularly around relationships, as sometimes feelings of anxiety come from the unknown, and while we may not know everything about what school will look like in the coming months, by thinking of some of the things that will be staying the same, we can help our children feel more secure.”
The council’s translation team has translated the story into Welsh, and the council has arranged to print copies to put into the county’s primary schools.
Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “This is a wonderful story which I am sure will help a lot of children feeling uncertain about returning to school.
“I would like to both congratulate and thank Rachel; I am delighted that the book will be going into our primary schools for pupils to enjoy.”
The story is also available on the council website carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education for parents to download and read with their children.
Video link: https://vimeo.com/432814176
Funding package of £3 million to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners
SCHOOLCHILDREN in Carmarthenshire will benefit from a funding package of £3 million to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners in Wales during the coronavirus pandemic.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement as part of Welsh Government’s ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ programme.
A digitally excluded learner is someone who does not have access to a suitable internet-connected device to take part in online learning activities from home.
The funding will be used to provide digitally excluded learners with repurposed school devices and 4G MiFi connectivity. Replacement devices will also be funded for schools out of the wider Hwb infrastructure programme.
In Carmarthenshire, schools have already started contacting parents and carers to identify digitally excluded learners, and the council’s IT department are identifying devices which can be repurposed with up-to-date software.
To date, more than 500 families who require further assistance with access to learning have been identified, with some further work to be carried out over the next week.
Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “We welcome this extra funding from Welsh Government to provide families with the support they need so that their children can continue to learn. No child should be left behind because they do not have access to a computer or broadband.
“This is a huge logistical effort and colleagues from across the council are working together to deliver this support for families as quickly as possible.
“I would like to thank the schools for working hard with us on this, we have already made a good start; and I would also like to thank parents for their patience, support and understanding whilst we put this into place.”
The council’s Education and Children’s Services department have put together a Distance Learning Plan which sets out the way forward for learning in Carmarthenshire during the coronavirus outbreak.
The main aim is to mitigate the impact of school closures on our children and young people as far as possible so that they can quickly catch up when schools reopen; and access to learning and connectivity is one of the key priorities.
Carmarthenshire’s Distance Learning Plan can be found on the ‘Information and support for Parents’ page on the council website, visit newsroom.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/coronavirus
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