Skip to main content
Creative/digital apprentices at GR Digital

College’s Work-Based Learning provision hailed by Estyn report

Today (27 March) sees the publication of Gower College Swansea’s Estyn (His Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education and Training) report highlighting the positive work of its apprenticeship/Work-Based Learning provision in Wales.

This is particularly pleasing as there has been substantial growth in the College’s apprenticeship provision since 2016 with the number of learners increasing from 250 learners back then, to approximately 3,000 in 2022/23.

In the report, the College is recognised for its proactive approach to the development of a curriculum that meets head-on the needs of the local and national employers with whom it works closely, and which benefits from an extensive use of labour market intelligence.

Also highlighted were the strong links the College has developed with the local Regional Learning and Skills Partnership, where Gower College Swansea’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Jones has been an active member for over eight years. “I am delighted that the college’s positive and proactive approach to the development of the curriculum to meet the needs of both local and national employers has been recognised”.

The College’s strong links with the Regional Learning and Skills Partnership has helped facilitate a collaboration with local employers to create innovative bespoke apprenticeship programmes such as clinical perioperative, floor covering and housing. Gower College Swansea is currently the sole Welsh provider of the latter two qualifications.

Gower College Swansea currently works in partnership with seven subcontractors - Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, XR Training, Mudiad Meithrin, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Big Learning Company, The Construction Hub Academy Wales and the S&A Academy - to deliver apprenticeship programmes across west, south, mid and north Wales.

The College also works with Swansea University and Cardiff University to deliver degree apprenticeships in software engineering, electrical and mechanical engineering.

The Esytn report highlighted the effective use of the College’s employer network to match learners to apprenticeship vacancies. It commented on the positive impact of the eight ‘highly effective’ sector advisory boards instigated by the College which have also helped shape new apprenticeship routes to meet employer needs.

Indeed, Estyn was so impressed by these links with employers that they have invited the College to submit a case study to highlight this work as best practice.

The Digital Employer Board in particular, has had a huge impact on the breadth of provision offered at the College. Due to specific requests from local employers, the College has developed a number of new digital courses including a User Centred Design apprenticeship and a Digital Skills for Business course. These were developed in conjunction with Agored Cymru and the Regional Learning and Skills Partnership with the express aim of addressing and reducing the digital skills gap in south west Wales.

As a result, College apprentices are gaining fantastic practical experience with such innovative employers as Hollowpixel animation studios in Cardiff and GR Digital, an agency based in the heart of Swansea’s city centre.

Another highlight was the support that the College provides for its apprentices, particularly the effective provision that is made available for learners with additional learning needs (ALN). This support helps to remove barriers and enable learners to not only achieve their apprenticeship but to thrive within their workplace and build their confidence and self-esteem for the future.

Gower College Swansea recently won the AoC Award for Widening Participation at this year’s Association of College’s Beacon Awards, in recognition of their Apprenticeships for All initiative.

“I used to think there was something wrong with me, but since joining the apprenticeship programme and accessing support, I’ve realised that my dyslexia is not a problem, it’s just about how I work,” said one learner.

“I can’t thank the Work-Based Learning team enough for all the time and effort they give to their students,” said another. “All the support I received, it made a real difference to my apprenticeship because I knew I had support and didn’t feel like I had to struggle with my additional learning needs alone.”

The inspectors also recognised the positive progress the apprentices made as they develop valuable practical skills that can apply directly to their current and future job roles.

They also noted how the apprentices were ‘valued members of their employer’s workforce’ and witnessed firsthand how they had developed their skills beyond the classroom and workplace, with many taking home medals after having successfully competed in national skills competitions.

The flexibility to offer training both face to face and remotely was also highlighted as a key strength.

“As Principal of Gower College Swansea, I’m immensely proud of the findings revealed in this Estyn report,” says Kelly Fountain. “It is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our apprentices, staff, and partners that we have achieved such commendable outcomes.

“I’m particularly pleased that the report highlights our effective systems for supporting learners with additional learning needs, acknowledging our commitment to fostering an inclusive environment where every apprentice has the opportunity to thrive.

“I’m also glad that our collaborative efforts with our employer networks, and the impactful contributions of sector advisory boards, is acknowledged as we shape our apprenticeship pathways to meet the evolving needs of industry. We remain dedicated to continuous improvement to ensure we maintain the highest standards for all of our apprentices within our Work-Based Learning provision.”