College shortlisted for three TES FE awards

Updated 17/05/2021

Gower College Swansea has been shortlisted in three categories at the prestigious TES FE Awards 2021.

The TES FE Awards celebrate the dedication and expertise of the people and teams who make a significant contribution to improving the skills levels of young people and adult learners.

Gower College Swansea has been shortlisted in the following categories:

Apprenticeship Programme of the Year
In response to a request from a major international employer, the College developed a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Laboratory and Industrial Science. To develop the route further, a Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Life Science Industries was also delivered.

The College has also liaised with Swansea University to allow further progression onto Year 2 of their chemistry undergraduate degree programme - the first chemistry pathway of its kind in the UK. As a direct result, other major employers have also benefited from this unique programme.

The Covid-19 pandemic has required the College to innovate beyond the syllabus, developing software for apprentices to solve laboratory-based calculations. As the only Royal Society Associate College in Wales, our apprentices have been able to collaborate virtually with the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Statistics and the Steel and Metal Institute (SaMI) in Swansea, to analyse raw data.

Gower College Swansea is particularly proud of the success of its female apprentices and has developed a female STEM Apprentice Ambassador programme, where apprentices visit local school pupils to dispel the notion that the sector is beyond their reach. This work is delivering significant outputs.

Of our female higher apprentices, one learner was crowned Welsh National Apprentice of the Year and another was named overall UK Tata Steel Higher Apprentice of the Year.

Support for Learners
Responding to concerns about the completion rates of autistic learners, a new strategic approach was taken by Gower College Swansea which led to the setting up of a unique ASD Strategy Group. This was dedicated to providing the best learning experience for all ASD Learners post-16, and putting transition at the centre of everything we do.

The group was composed of stakeholders from Swansea University, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Swansea Council, plus representatives from special schools/units, the Swansea ASD Lead, parents and carers, the College’s Learning Support team, an ASD College student representative and the Careers Service. 

The College now has a sector-leading transition programme for all learners with ASD and Additional Learning Needs. It has also developed specific courses as part of the extended transition process for ASD learners, PACE (Pre-Access to College Education) and PACE Progression. These courses, have access to sensory breakout rooms, an improved referral process with the Integrated Autism Service, and the availability of dedicated staff trained and experienced in working with autistic learners.

In partnership with Swansea University, the College also spent two years on a pioneering research project, aiming to understand the challenges students with autism experience transitioning through educational milestones.

Student Support was recognised as ‘Excellent’ in our 2018 Estyn inspection, our retention numbers have improved significantly, and Gower College Swansea has also become the first FE College in Wales to receive the prestigious Accreditation from the National Autistic Society.

Worldskills Hero
As well as being a busy mum and family carer, Nicola Grant-Rees inspires our full time learners in her role as Restaurant Skills Instructor at the Vanilla Pod training restaurant.

With 35 years’ industrial experience in food service and conferencing, Nicola has spent the past 12 years honing the restaurant skills of our learners and this dedication has certainly paid off! No other Welsh college can claim they have secured at least one competitor place in the finals of the UK skills show for six consecutive years.

Ten students represented Team Wales in the Restaurant Services competition finals at UK Skills Birmingham, with three winning Silver and one winning Bronze. In addition, two of Nicola’s students were awarded Medallions of Excellence while representing Team UK at Euroskills Budapest 2018 and WorldSkills Kazan 2019 - along with a Silver medal at the finals in China. Most recently, she mentored a learner who won Gold in the Inclusive Skills Restaurant competition.

Throughout the pandemic, Nicola has continued to innovate and develop learner skills, delivering live practical sessions and virtual assessments, encouraging and supporting everyone during this very emotional time. She is a wonderful role model who has inspired countless learners to have the highest aspirations, no matter their background or starting point.

"After a particularly difficult and challenging year, in which we all had to adapt to a new way of living, teaching and learning, I’m absolutely delighted that the College has been shortlisted in three such diverse categories,” says Principal Mark Jones. “Putting the learner experience at the heart of everything we do has never been more important than over the past 12 months and I would like to thank, once again, the College's teaching and support staff for their commitment, dedication and remarkable talent.” 

"Further education providers have excelled in what has been a truly challenging year and the amazing individuals, teams and institutions on our TES FE Awards shortlist showcase that,” says TES Head of FE, Julia Belgutay. “Our judges were highly impressed with the calibre of entries and I want to congratulate everyone who has made the shortlist – it is a brilliant achievement."

The winners of the TES FE Awards will be announced online on 28 May 2021.