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17 March 2017

Quality Skills Alliance Annual Awards celebrate the best apprentices in the region

Sixteen of the finest apprentices working in Wales have had their hard work and dedication celebrated at a special awards ceremony.

Employers and practitioners who have gone that extra mile in their commitment to work based learning were also recognised at the ceremony, held in the spectacular surroundings of Cardiff and Vale College’s City Centre Campus.

The apprentices’ commitment was celebrated at the fourth Annual Awards ceremony held by the Quality Skills Alliance – a consortium of work-based learning providers made up of 22 partners and subcontractors. The awards celebrate excellence and achievement, and the winners were chosen by a panel comprising the QSA’s chair – CAVC Chief Executive Kay Martin – and board.

The overall award for Apprentice of the Year went to Tom Grainger. Tom is employed by Mercedes Benz, Cardiff and Newport, and through rapid development completed his apprenticeship in June last year despite being due to complete his framework in March 2017.

Showing product knowledge and confidence that is way ahead of his peers, Tom was named Mercedes Benz Apprentice of the Year 2016. He recently attended the PETRONAS Formula 1 workshops and pit team leading up to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone – an experience many Automotive Light Vehicle apprentices can only dream of.

“I can’t believe it – I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” Tom, who also won the QSA Auto – Light Vehicle Award, said. “I’m shocked, but it’s good that all of the hard work I put has been recognised. I feel a real sense of achievement.

“All of my mentors and my employer have been amazing and supported me all the way through my apprenticeship – and my assessor really pushed me to make sure I finished it.”

This year saw the first Junior Apprenticeship Award. This award recognises the achievements of Cardiff and Vale College’s Junior Apprenticeship programme – a new partnership between the College, City of Cardiff Council and local schools to offer vocational career paths to 14 to 16-year-olds that is unique in Wales.

The first ever winner of the Junior Apprentice Award was 16-year-old Caine Meredith, who is on CAVC’s Auto pathway.

After a rocky start, Caine became one of the politest and attentive young people on the programme. Always positive and encouraging to the other members of his group, Caine’s engagement in practical sessions has thoroughly impressed his tutors. The Auto team at CAVC find Caine a pleasure to work with and they believe he will go far.

“I’m excited about winning,” Caine said. “At the beginning I had a rough start but I decided that it should be about me so I decided to focus and improve myself.

“It’s helped me and I’ve improved my behaviour. I’d like to thank the tutors, my mum and my girlfriend and Jennie from the Junior Apprenticeship team – they keep me on track, help me get on with my work and keep me out of the wrong crowds.”

Chloe Davies, a Cardiff and Vale College Apprenticeships (CAVCA) learner, won the Hair and Beauty Award. Chloe started as a full time learner but moved over to an apprenticeship and despite having to change salons in the middle of her framework she was able to progress from Level 2 to Level 3 Hairdressing, complete her course and is now in full time employment at The Business in Dinas Powys, where she also manages the salon’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

“I’m really glad to have this award,” Chloe said. “I’d like to thank my Assessor Stefanie Owen for everything she’s done for me and for getting me into a salon. I would like to be a hair tutor in the future but I want to get a lot of experience of the job first.”

Alex James is employed as an apprentice by The Classroom, Cardiff and Vale College’s landmark restaurant. A hard worker who has become an integral part of The Classroom’s AA College Rosette-winning team, Alex has represented the College in the Skills Wales competition.

“Winning this award feels absolutely amazing,” Alex said. “I’d like to thank Cindy and Lee for supporting me. Working in The Classroom is an amazing experience and every day the entertainment and banter is fun. This evening has been great – it’s good to be on the other side and actually get to eat the food!”

Cardiff and Vale College runs a successful apprenticeship scheme with Deloitte at its Cardiff Delivery Centre. Business Administration Award winner Brandon Lee Edwards completed his apprenticeship before his expected end date, setting himself ambitious targets. Now employed full time at Deloitte, Brandon is keen to enter its Bright Spark programme in 2017.

“I’m amazed to win an award,” Brandon said. “This is not just down to me; this is down to CAVC and Deloitte. It’s been a real team effort. I would like to family as well – I’m very grateful to be where I am and they played a bit part in it.”

The Health and Social Care Award was won by CAVCA apprentice Laura Gurd. Laura has been with Fun Start Childcare since it opened in Cardiff and greets every new challenge with enthusiasm, excitement and passion.

The Book Club that Laura has set up has had a huge impact on the community, enabling parents and guardians to access books in their own languages to take home and read with their children. Committed to her own development, Laura visits the library regularly in her own time to build on her skills.

“I’m very happy that I’ve won this ward and I want to carry on doing well in the future,” Laura said. “I’m really honoured. I’d like to thank my childcare practice and my tutor – it’s really nice that my work is appreciated.”

The Role Model Award was won by former Creative and Digital Media Apprentice Dewi Foulkes for his work at special effects firm Real SFX. A History graduate who wasn’t sure what do with his career, Dewi flourished on his apprenticeship and was part of the team who won an Emmy Award for their work on Sherlock.

The Special Recognition Award went to Vehicle Accident Repair apprentice Chris Jones. A talented spray artist, Chris has represented CAVC at World Skills and came second – his decorated car bonnets are also used to promote the College’s Auto courses at events.

Michelle Owen of CAVC and Danielle Williams of NDGTA both won Practitioner’s Awards for their exemplary support to apprentices and colleagues, adding to value to their organisations.

Employers were also celebrated for their commitment to apprentices. Arnold Building and Carpentry won the Small Employer Award while the Salvation Army Lighthouse/Tŷ Gobaith won the Medium Employer Award. BBC Cymru Wales and Enrsys both won the award for large employers.

A special New Employer Award went to Signature Living for its commitment to apprentices at its redevelopment of the Coal Exchange. Signature Living employs one CAVCA apprentice during the current redevelopment phase of the Exchange Hotel and plans to take on more to work front of house and in catering when the hotel is completed.

Signature Living Sales Director Wendy White said: “It’s fantastic to win this award, especially as a new employer in Cardiff at the Exchange Hotel. We always take on apprentices – they’re a great opportunity to work with local people and with the local college.

“It’s been a great evening, hearing about so many amazing achievements and meeting apprentices of all ages. I can take away a lot from this.”

CAVC Principal and QSA Chair Kay Martin said: “It really has been a pleasure to celebrate the achievements of each and every winner at the QSA Annual Awards. As a consortium we know apprenticeships work and by developing opportunities for apprenticeships we can have a huge impact on individuals, employers, communities and the economy.”

The awards had been generously supported by sponsorship from NDGTA JTL and Safe and Secure Training. QSA apprenticeships are funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.