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Coveted apprenticeship award for inspirational gas explosion survivor

A coveted apprenticeship award has been presented to a truly inspirational woman who rebuilt her life and developed a successful career after surviving a gas explosion.

On June 24, 2020, Jessica Williams’ life changed forever. Within minutes of arriving home, the Seven Sisters mother and her two young sons were buried under tonnes of rubble as a freak gas explosion brought their terraced house to the ground.

She spent months in hospital undergoing numerous operations, but, less than three years later, she had completed a Higher Apprenticeship (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.

Jessica’s amazing resilience and learning journey were recognised as she was named Higher Apprentice of the Year at the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2024 awards ceremony at ICC Wales.

Highlight of the year for apprentices, employers and work-based learning providers and practitioners, the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru are organised by the Welsh Government and supported by the National Training Federation for Wales (NTFW).

Headline sponsor this year was EAL, specialist skills partner and awarding organisation for industry. The awards highlight the outstanding achievements of employers, apprentices and work-based learning practitioners.

“I am totally overwhelmed and proud because I have been on such a journey,” said Jessica, 34, after receiving her award.

“I was so grateful to be a finalist and didn’t think I would win, but it’s nice to have the recognition and I really appreciate it.

“Having been through so much, it’s nice to come out the other end with this award. It means that no matter what you have been through in your life, you can achieve anything!

“I absolutely adore my job and I don’t think that childcare gets the recognition that it deserves. There are opportunities to progress and always new learning experiences.”

Reflecting on the gas explosion, Jessica said: “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. My journey has not been an easy one, but it has been incredible.”

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

Al Parkes, managing director at EAL, said: “I would like to congratulate not just the winners of the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru, but all the employers, apprentices and work-based learning practitioners who were nominated.

“Showcasing their achievements is important as it inspires more people to consider apprenticeships and encourages more employers to take on apprentices.”

Chief Executive of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research, Simon Pirotte OBE, said: “I want to congratulate all the finalists and winners. Stories like theirs drive home the high impact that apprenticeships can have, helping people to find fulfilling employment and contributing to Wales’ skills system. They will be a crucial part of the newly founded Commission for Tertiary Education and Research.”

For more information about recruiting an apprentice, visit: or call 03000 603000.

Image: Jessica Williams received the Higher Apprentice of the Year award from Grant Santos Educ8 Training Group.

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