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Horror explosion survivor is an Apprenticeship Awards Cymru finalist

On June 24, 2020, Jessica Williams’ life changed forever. The day was nothing out-of-the-ordinary for the Seven Sisters mother-of-two, who had been enjoying the sunshine with her children before arriving home to await her partner, Mike, returning from work.

But within minutes, Jessica, 34, and her young sons were buried under tonnes of rubble as a freak gas explosion brought their terraced house to the ground, leaving her with life changing injuries.

She spent months in hospital undergoing numerous operations, but, less than three years later, she had completed a HigherApprenticeship (Level 5) in Children’s Care, Learning and Development, Leadership and Management through training provider ACT, and is using her traumatic experience to inspire and improve others.

Now Jessica has been shortlisted for the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2024 as a finalist in the Higher 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.

Reflecting on the gas explosion, Jessica said: “My world was turned upside down on that day and it changed my life. It was miraculous that we all survived.

“When I did go back to learning in May 2021, I was desperate to get my life back on track. The apprenticeship helped me and the personal progress I made during the programme was tremendous.

“I have gone from being critically ill and fighting for my life to, now, a successful preschool leader. It is incredible, but my journey has not been an easy one.” 

As preschool leader at Ser Bach y Cwm, a Flying Start Preschool at Ysgol Golwg y Cwm, Ystradgynlais, Jessica is empowering colleagues and improving the teamwork culture and has also secured around £20,000 to improve facilities.

“Jessica is an outstanding member of the team and works co-operatively with her job share partner to lead the setting in achieving the best possible outcomes for the children and their families,” said Judith Hickey, headteacher.

“Jessica is truly remarkable in having undertaken her Level 5 Apprenticeship despite a life­changing, traumatic accident. Her resilience has carried her through and despite such huge adverse challenges, Jess has endeavoured to plough on and overcome all challenges placed in her way.”

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething congratulated Jessica 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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