Gower College Swansea is in the running for more awards after being named as a national finalist in the AAC Apprenticeship Awards 2019.
More than 350 entries were submitted from UK colleges, training providers and employers for these prestigious awards, which are organised by FE Week and the Association of Education and Learning Providers.
Gower College Swansea - the only Welsh finalist - has been shortlisted in two categories, the first of which is Health and Science Apprenticeship Provider of the Year.
In direct response to feedback from major international employers such as Tata Steel and Vale Europe, Gower College Swansea developed an innovative apprenticeship pathway for Laboratory and Science Technicians from Levels 3 to 5. The outcomes achieved by learners on the Level 3 Pathway have been excellent. In 2017 and 2018, all apprentices achieved the full Framework (100% successful completion) which is significantly higher than the national comparator of 89%.
In September 2018, the College’s entire cohort of Higher Apprentices successfully progressed to the second year of the course and the grade profiles achieved on the knowledge qualifications were outstanding. In 2017, 33% of the learners were awarded the highest grade profile possible (D*D*). The following year, this figure increased to 43%.
In what is a typically male dominated sector, 50% of the College's staff supporting apprentices are female and many of these have themselves scooped national awards – the most recent of these is Sally Hughes of Tata Steel, who was named the 2018 Welsh Apprentice of the Year.
"Where we really stand out from the crowd is in the development of apprentices ‘beyond the syllabus’ in order to meet the needs of our employers,” says Director of Skills and Business Development, Paul Kift. “There was a clear, industry driven need to develop the skills of the apprentices through to degree level and, in response, the College has established an arrangement with Swansea University that allows our higher apprentices to feed directly into the second year of the BSc Chemistry degree. Although not uncommon for engineering apprentices, we believe this is the first time such an academic pathway has been developed for chemistry apprentices in the UK."
The second category in which the College has been shortlisted is the Outstanding Contribution to the Development of Apprenticeships and that individual honour falls to Curriculum Leader for Electronic Engineering Steve Williams.
Over the course of his 30 year career, Steve has continuously highlighted the benefits of apprenticeships to learners and employers alike, with the sole aim of delivering the talent pipeline that is so drastically required.
Employers in the electrical and electronic consumer service and installation sector have reported that it is now in crisis due to the lack of young new engineers. With this challenge in mind, Steve was invited by national employers to take on the Chairmanship of the Home Electrical Electronic Skills Training forum (HEEST) which includes organisations such as Samsung, Whirlpool, Electrolux, Bosch and Panasonic. These stakeholders share a simple aim – to help guarantee the future prosperity of their industry - and Steve was handpicked to chair this group due to his expertise, drive, innovation, and firm commitment to developing stellar apprentices.
“Steve is a fantastic ambassador for the College and for the sector as a whole,” says Paul. “In his capacity as UK Training Manager for WorldSkills Electronics, he has linked the work of the HEEST forum with the national competition events in a bid to help attract new apprentice talent into the industry. In his role as Curriculum Leader and lecturer, Steve has worked with Qualifications Wales to inform future apprenticeship curriculum in the sector and, under his remarkable leadership, the College has developed an extremely successful electronic engineering department. When writing the nomination, numerous stakeholders referred to his infectious personality – he fully deserves to be one of only three individuals in the whole of the UK who are in contention for this award.”
To celebrate being named as finalists, representatives from the College have been invited to a Parliamentary reception at the Houses of Parliament on 4 March. The winners will then be revealed at the awards ceremony in Birmingham on 28 March.
Photo of Sally Hughes: Golley Slater
Photo of Steve Williams: Peter Price Media