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Gower College Swansea wins the AoC Award for Widening Participation 23/24

Gower College Swansea has recently won the AoC Award for Widening Participation at this year’s Association of College’s Beacon Awards. 

Attracting hundreds of applications from all over the country each year, the Beacon Awards are the most prestigious awards in further education and have been running for 29 years.  

The awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice in further education colleges and demonstrate the far-reaching impact of colleges on their students and the communities they serve. 

The Widening Participation award is in recognition of the College’s commitment in creating supportive and accessible Apprenticeships for All and was commended for its proactive approach to identify and support apprentices with disabilities and additional learning needs.  

These dedicated efforts have resulted in a substantial increase in apprentices with disabilities, from 1.6% in 2015 to an impressive 10% (141) of apprenticeship starts in 2022/2023.  

This proactive approach extends to promoting the extensive support available to learners with disabilities, sensory impairments, additional learning needs, and work/life-limiting health conditions. In addition, the College has cultivated support networks across the country, facilitating diagnostic assessments near the apprentice and their employer.  

Speaking about the accolade, Kelly Fountain, Principal at Gower College Swansea, said:

“I am incredibly proud of our team’s dedication and innovative approach in crafting and executing the Apprenticeships for All initiative, which has notably enriched the learning experience for our apprentices.  

“Securing a Beacon Award acknowledges our unwavering commitment to fostering an inclusive environment where every individual has the opportunity to thrive. This achievement underscores the collaborative spirit driving our success, encompassing our outstanding apprentices, supportive colleagues, and invaluable partnerships with both employers and the Welsh Government.” 

Paul Kift, Director of Skills and Business Development, at Gower College Swansea said:

“I’m thrilled that we have secured a UK Beacon Award for a second consecutive year. We were honoured to secure the Award for Internationalism in 2023, and we have now followed up on this success by winning the Widening Participation Award this year. 

“I am extremely proud of our fantastic apprentices and of the hard work and support of my colleagues – both were put through an extensive assessment process to win this award. I would particularly like to celebrate our employer partners’ commitment towards leveraging the power of diversity within their workforce. It really is a team effort, so thank you and congratulations to all involved.’ 

Rachel Jones, Director of Work Based Learning, at Gower College Swansea, added:

“This program has significantly boosted recruitment and success rates for apprentices with disabilities or additional learning needs. None of this would be possible without the hard work of our dedicated staff, partners and apprentices.  

“The award highlights the transformative impact of apprenticeships, ensuring everyone can thrive. During the assessment, the Beacon assessors spoke with our apprentices based in Ware-House Gyms, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Swansea Council, Tata Steel and Elite Supported Employment Agency. They also spoke with our specialist advisor partners Raising Standards, The Safeguarding Consultant and Dyslexia Pembrokeshire.” 

“It really shows how we’re committed to further enhancing opportunities for under-represented groups and invite discussions with like-minded employers and stakeholders.” 

Speaking about the winners, Mark White, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“The AoC Beacon Awards showcase exactly why colleges are so important to every community and why people value them. This award recognises examples of excellent practical teaching and learning. The work of the winning college shows how important colleges are in providing students with the necessary skills for the real world.” 

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