Gwynfor Jones struggled to focus in school and feared the social isolation during the Covid pandemic would hinder his adult development, but he credits work-based learning for achieving “the impossible”.
The 18-year-old from Treherbert has completed a Foundation Apprenticeship in Environmental Conservation with Welcome to our Woods (WTOW), a community partnership in the Upper Rhondda Fawr connecting residents with nature.
Now Gwynfor has been shortlisted for the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2024 as a finalist in the Foundation Apprentice of the Year category.
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.
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.
Having volunteered with WTOW since he was 13, Gwynfor was taken under their wing on completion of his GCSEs and he hasn’t looked back since, helping with a number of environmental projects and making a real difference.
“I was low on confidence at school as I didn’t see myself as a ‘smart kid’ and I didn’t have any useful skills,” said Gwynfor. “But since undertaking the apprenticeship, my self-esteem and confidence have developed beyond what I could have imagined.
“I also feared during Covid that I had lost my social skills through isolation, but my apprenticeship saw me achieve ‘the impossible’ by making presentations to children in schools, the public and community events at my workplace.”
As a bilingual employee, Gwynfor’s value has been recognised in promotional videos promoting vocational education in both English and Welsh. His skills have also been embraced by senior management.
“Gwynfor has put his new knowledge to work and has brought fresh ideas to our programmes in the woodland, around habitat creation and biodiversity,” said Ian Thomas, company director of WTOW Ltd.
“In addition to his working week, he has enthusiastically supported our woodland therapy sessions, working one to one with participants from our local NHS hospital, GP referrals and with people from specialist hospitals, such as Rookwood brain injury rehabilitation hospital.
“He has also become an active youth leader and positive youth influencer by volunteering two evenings a week at open access outdoor play sessions with Valleys Kids. He is an outdoor first aider and mountain bike leader, additional qualifications achieved in the past two years.”
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething congratulated Gwynfor 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.”
For more information about recruiting an apprentice, visit: https://gov.wales/apprenticeships-genius-decision or call 03000 603000.