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Skills winners celebrate with Deputy Minister

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PEMBROKESHIRE learners have been rewarded for their successes at two major skills competitions, in an event celebrating talent across Wales.

Winners gathered at St David’s Hotel and Spa in Cardiff Bay to be honoured for their achievements at Skills Competition Wales and The Skills Show.

The event saw Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James, hand out medals to 39 students, trainees, apprentices and employees who all won at competitions in 2014.

Pembrokeshire College students and graduates Annalea Lawrence, 39, from Pembroke; Luke Lawrence, 20, and Nicola Ashby, 32, from Pembroke Dock; Gabriella Coates, 19, from Tenby, and Marie Crayford, 44, from Saundersfoot, each took medals after triumphing in their chosen skill sector.

The Deputy Minister said: “This event is about celebrating the successes of our Welsh winners at Skills Competition Wales and The Skills Show, a group of people who will now act as role models to young people in Wales.

“These competitions help drive up standards in vocational skills and help us showcase the talent we have in Wales all over the world.

“We’re showing that we have talented students, trainees, apprentices and employees and we have forward-thinking training companies, colleges and employers.

“These competition winners are a testament to what can be achieved through dogged determination as well as skill.”

During Skills Competition Wales, the country’s most talented learners battled it out in competitions ranging from reflexology to web development to be named the ‘best in Wales’ in their chosen skill.

Initially, entrants competed against colleagues within their college and the best were then entered to compete at a national level, as part of heats organised within colleges across Wales by Skills Competition Wales (SCW).

In addition, The Skills Show, at the NEC in Birmingham then saw over 600 participants from across the UK take part in more than 60 competitions to be named the ‘best in the UK’.

Annalea and Nicola were awarded bronze and silver medals respectively in the reflexology category at Skills Competition Wales; Marie in aromatherapy, while Gabriella took gold in beauty therapy. Luke Lawrence was highly commended in the welding category at The Skills Show.

Gabriella said: “The Skills Show experience has been absolutely amazing.

“It’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done but I learned so much from it and the end result was definitely worth it. I’d recommend it to any learner.”

Backed by the Welsh Government, through the European Social Fund, Skills Competition Wales promotes the importance of developing a highly-skilled workforce, aiming to boost high level skills in Wales.

Barry Liles, WorldSkills Wales Champion and principal at Coleg Sir Gâr, who hosted the event, said:

“Taking part in skills competitions increases employability, employee skills, employer competitiveness, business growth and ultimately improves the economy of Wales.”

“The amount of passion and concentration shown at these events, the results of months and years of hard work, is always fantastic to see and every person involved should be hugely proud of what they have achieved.

“I’m extremely proud to be a part of such an inspiring scheme that has gone from strength to strength over the past four years.”

To register your interest for the next cycle of WorldSkills UK Competitions, visit www.worldskillsuk.org

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Community

Llandeilo Festival publishes its Entertainment schedule

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“CHILDREN AND families are at the heart of our festival this year,” announces festival vice chair Debbie Ince. “On Friday 18th November the festival stalls will start trading at 10am but in the evening there will be the official opening, followed at 6:15pm by Santa coming through the town on his sleigh. A children’s Lantern procession from CK to King Street led by Llandeilo Primary School’s Samba group will meet Santa on King Street to tunes by the Llandeilo Town Band and bilingual hymn singer Ffion Haf. Once the children had their fill of Santa, the Christmas Lights will be switched on by Mayor Gordon Kilby. Local legend singer and actor Harry Luke and Ffion Haf will entertain the crowd until 8pm.”

People enjoying the festival

A spectacular and pet-friendly Laser Show will replace the controversial fireworks at 8pm. “There’s also a tea cup ride on King Street for kids,” adds Ince. “On Saturday and Sunday kids can go to Santa’s Grotto 10 – 4, and on Saturday to St Teilo’s Church or Hengwrt for activities. At our park and ride on Beechwood Estate ‘Sgiliau’ will be open for our youngest visitors.”

“There is of course plenty of entertainment for adults, too,” adds festival chair Christoph Fischer. “From Davies & Co Station Road to Flows on Market Street, most Llandeilo venues will play indoor music, many day and night. The stage will host a variety of acts: from school and adult choirs, bands, solo singers and dance groups, such as Mixed Youth Group, Lotus Sisters Belly dancers and Sunflowers Wales. Cooking demonstrations on Saturday and a Santa Run on Sunday morning round up the festival programme. You can find updates on the Llandeilo Town App Dyma Llandeilo.”

Santa at the Parade

“With our wide selection of street food, arts-,crafts-, fashion- and food stalls there should be something for everyone,” adds stalls coordinator and treasurer Mered Williams. “See you all on the 18th.!”

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Carmarthenshire County Council has launched its annual Christmas Toybox Appeal

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The appeal, in its 12th year, helps hundreds of children with families who can’t afford to buy toys or gifts.

Last year saw us help more families than ever who were struggling financially with more than 7,700 gifts distributed to 1,287 children. This year during these unprecedented times we rely on support more than ever.

The appeal was launched online for the first time in 2020 following the coronavirus pandemic and people were asked to make a financial donation instead of buying gifts and toys.

This year people can either give a financial donation or drop off gifts from games, arts and craft items to toiletry gift sets for all ages – from 18 months up to teenagers, at one of a number of collection points around the county.

Schools, family centres and youth workers identify those who are in greatest need of support and council staff will distribute them in the run-up to Christmas.

The council’s executive board member responsible for the Toybox Appeal, Cllr Linda Evans said:

“I am proud to be following on from the legacy of Cllr Mair Stephens who sadly passed away earlier this year. The Toybox appeal this year is going to be more important than ever. We have always had fantastic support and this year we hope this will continue to ensure that hundreds of children will receive a Christmas gift. We know times are hard, but if people are able to spare a gift or a donation no matter how big or small, it will make a great difference to those families less fortunate.”

You can make a donation of your choice online at the Christmas Toy Box Appeal website. If you have a cash or cheque donation please call 01267 246504.

To view the collection point locations please visit the council’s website

Donations are being taken up until November 30.

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Council responds at pace to deliver significant improvements in its planning Service

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Audit Wales has carried out a Follow-up Review of Planning Services by Carmarthenshire County Council and concluded that the council has successfully addressed all its recommendations.

In July 2021, Audit Wales published a report following a review of the council’s planning services, with its findings identifying significant and long-standing performance issues in the planning service that needed to be urgently addressed to help support the delivery of the council’s ambitions.

A total of 17 recommendations were made by Audit Wales for the council to address. All of which the report has confirmed have been met.

In response to the recommendations of the report, Carmarthenshire County Council convened an Intervention Board to provide oversight of a 49 point action plan to respond to the Audit Wales findings that were published in July 2021. Over the past 15 months, progress against the plan has been monitored through the council’s governance framework to provide assurance of progress made against the recommendations.

Audit Wales has been following the council’s progress through regular catch-up meetings with the council, document reviews and observing governance and audit committee meetings. They have also interviewed key council officers during the audit process.

Within the follow up-review, which can be viewed on their website, Audit Wales states that:

“The Council is to be commended for the swift, decisive action it took in response to the findings of our 2021 report, and for the way it has driven improvements in its planning service.

“The constructive way in which the Council received our report and acted on the recommendations is a particularly positive example of a Council demonstrating its commitment to driving improvement in service delivery.

“The Council has learnt lessons from the review that it has also applied more widely, particularly in relation to performance management.

“Overall, we found that the Council has successfully addressed all our recommendations and has responded at pace to deliver significant improvements in its planning service.”

Cabinet member for rural affairs and planning policy, Cllr Ann Davies said:

“I am very pleased with the Audit Wales report which states that Carmarthenshire County Council has succeeded in overcoming challenges within our planning department.

“The report is excellent, it praises the work and the change in systems, procedures and leadership, recognising the significant improvement that has been achieved.

“The issues in question were not due to a lack of work ethic, as I know first-hand of the effort and commitment that is put in by a number of our officers. It was rather the processes which were to blame and needed to be adjusted, as it did not provide officers with the appropriate environment to carry out the work required.

“I would like to thank all council officers that have worked so hard since the Spring of 2021 to achieve the goal of meeting all 17 of the recommendations that were initially set out by Audit Wales.

“The next step, of course, is to keep going, keep moving forward to stay at the forefront as one of the most productive planning authorities in Wales. There is further work to be done and we are committed to continuous improvement, especially in the world of enforcement but we are moving in the right direction with over 1000 enforcement cases having already been resolved in the last year.”

Click here to visit the Audit Wales website and view a full copy of the Follow-up Review of Planning Services.

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