Work-Based Learner Heroes Point to Path for the Future; Vocational Qualifications Day Awards Celebrate Students' Achievements
Byline: Katie Norman
FOR many learners, vocational qualifications are a vital stepping stone to a better future - and yet their successes go unsung all too often.
Yesterday's Vocational Qualifications ( VQ) Day was second annual event of its kind aiming to raise the profile of such learners' achievements.
To mark the occasion, from across Wales gathered at the Senedd, in Cardiff Bay, to display the skills they have acquired through their courses.
Some of Wales' most accomplished work-based learners were honoured with VQ Day Heroes awards at the event.
The awards were presented Deputy Minister for Skills John Griffiths who stressed the importance of recognising the achievements of such students.
" This is particularly relevant in the current economic he said.
" It's more important than ever that people boost their skills and knowledge through education or training to meet the needs of employers or start their own business." Among the eight deserving nominees was Swansea College graduate Kelly Goss, who up the award for Wales Young Learner of the Year.
The 20- year- old has launched her own fashion label, Rock ' n' Needle, and has already headlined a fashion show at the exclusive Mint Club in Mayfair. A DVD of her latest collection will be distributed at the London Clothes Show Live.
The Wales Learner of the Award was received by S4C gardening presenter Sioned Rowlands, who changed career after qualifying as a primary school teacher.
Since studying floristry at the Welsh College of Horticulture, Sioned has gone on to become a tutor at the college and now runs her own successful business.
There are currently 88 work-based learning providers contracted with the Welsh Assembly Government, between them offering a total of 2,240 courses across Wales.
Carolyn Jarrett, an assessment centre manager for Careers Wales West, said the rising trend for vocational courses was an important sign for the future.
She said: "The difficult economic climate means that vocational training and qualifications are now even more vital to the economy of Wales in ensuring more people can gain work-related skills." Denise Olander, head of the business and professional faculty at Cardiff's Coleg Glan Hafren, believes such courses are particularly vital to people who may have struggled with academia.
She said: "School has failed many of these learners, for whatever reason. They often come to us at 16 and they haven't had a good experience at school so they feel there's no opportunities for them.
"The most important thing is to get the right learner on the right course. Often they have tasted failure already - we want them to taste success." And vocational qualifications can be equally beneficial to students who have excelled in their academic studies.
Cardiff University student Emyr Thomas, from Swansea, opted to study a BTec National Diploma for IT Practitioners rather than taking A-levels after achieving 10 grade A and A* GCSEs. He believes the course gave him the upper hand on students who had followed the traditional A-level route.
"Studying a BTec was one of the best decisions I've ever made," he said.
"I spent two years concentrating on a subject I really enjoy, and learning from a range of specialists. I applied to four universities and got four offers." The Maelor School, in Penley, Wrexham, is one of many Welsh secondary schools to have embraced vocational qualifications such as the OCR National in ICT, which takes a work-based approach to developing learners' computer skills.
The school's head teacher, Eiddwyn Hall, said students who chose the qualification liked being able to choose to study the modules which interested them. …