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All aboard for a UK-first apprenticeship programme with award finalist

Keeping Wales on the move through a sustainable train network has been the driving force behind a pioneering apprenticeship programme created by Transport for Wales (TfW). 

The not-for-profit company was established in 2015 to support the Welsh Government’s vision of creating a high quality, safe, integrated and affordable transport network. TfW has embraced work-based learning by recruiting hundreds of apprentices to improve performance and long-term sustainability.

TfW welcomed its first cohort in 2019, but by 2021 the company had introduced a UK-first programme for trainee train drivers that was designed in collaboration with the awarding body, EAL, and delivered in partnership with Coleg y Cymoedd.

The programme has already encouraged scores of new recruits from diverse backgrounds to enter the rail industry with the target to attract more than 100 new apprentices per year over the next five years. TfW currently employs 189 apprentices and has recruited over 300 over the past five years.

Now, TfW has been shortlisted for the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2024 as a Large Employer of the Year finalist.

Highlight of the year for apprentices, employers and work-based learning providers and practitioners, the awards are organised by the Welsh Government and supported by the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW). Headline sponsor is EAL.

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The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony to be held at ICC Wales, Newport on March 22, 2024. The awards highlight the outstanding achievements of employers, apprentices and work-based learning practitioners.

“By designing a bespoke apprenticeship programme, Transport for Wales ensured that trainee train drivers receive a recognised qualification, the first accredited MVQ Level Three qualification in train driver operations in the UK,” said Liam Matthews, rail apprenticeship co-ordinator at Coleg y Cymoedd.

“This qualification not only provides official recognition for the employees but also sets the foundation for a reliable public transport service.”

Apprenticeships are now available across 12 areas of the business and also delivered by ALS Training, with TfW crediting these programmes by directly supporting the company’s transformation plans.

With a focus on diversity and inclusivity, it has also provided a sustainable pipeline of talent that aligns with the organisation’s goals and objectives as outlined in their corporate strategy and strategic equality plan.

The introduction of a new salary structure for apprentices, aligned with the National Living Wage, demonstrates a commitment to attracting candidates from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, ensuring apprenticeships are accessible to a wider range of individuals to further promote diversity within the workforce.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething congratulated Transport for Wales and all the other finalists. “Today’s apprentices will be tomorrow’s specialists, and Apprenticeship Awards Cymru allows us to recognise apprentices, work-based learning practitioners, and employers that have gone above and beyond,” he said.

“Their tenacity, passion, and commitment to growing their own careers, the careers of others, and the larger Welsh economy is inspiring. I wish each of the finalists the best of luck at the awards and with their future endeavours.”

Congratulating the finalists, Al Parkes, managing director at EAL, said: “As the specialist awarding organisation and skills partner for the engineering and manufacturing industry, apprenticeships in Wales are especially important to us. 

“Apprenticeships play an important role in supporting personal progress through career opportunities and a sense of achievement, while ensuring that employers have the right skills at the right time to keep up with evolving industry needs. 

“EAL is committed to encouraging employers to take on apprentices. Marking the achievements of employers, apprentices, and work-based learning practitioners at the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru is vital to this.”

For more information about recruiting an apprentice, visit: https://gov.wales/apprenticeships-genius-decision or call 03000 603000.

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