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From Botswana to Blaenavon: one learner’s ambition to teach in Wales

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Jessica Apps moved half way around the world to begin a new life in South Wales with her mum and younger sister in November 2019 and has been described as a “superb role model” as she sets her sights on a teaching career.

Despite arriving in the UK with GCSE grade equivalents, Jessica was unable to join a college which led to her losing confidence and feeling lonely until she joined Sgiliau Cyf.

A Traineeship Creative Engagement Programme, which allowed Jessica to develop her passion for photography and creative writing, soon restored her confidence. This,  and achieving a Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award, meant Jessica was able to make a lot of new friends.

She is now studying ‘A’ levels in Sociology. Photography and Literature at Coleg Gwent and hopes to go to university to study sociology and become a teacher.

Now Jessica has been shortlisted for the Traineeship Learner of the Year (Engagement) award at the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2021.

This annual celebration of outstanding achievement in training and apprenticeships will see 35 finalists compete in 12 categories for awards. The winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on April 29.

Highlight of the work-based learning calendar, the awards showcase businesses and individuals who have excelled on the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship and Traineeship Programmes and gone the extra mile to achieve success during these unprecedented times.

The awards are jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW). Openreach, the UK’s digital network business and passionate supporter of apprenticeships, has renewed its headline sponsorship of the awards.

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.

Jessica, who lives in Forge Side, Blaenavon, also wants to continue volunteering with Sgiliau Cyf to help other young people who feel disengaged from employment and learning as she once did.

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“Joining Sgiliau to do the Traineeship was the best decision I’ve made because I was accepted so quickly, learners and teachers were so welcoming,” explained Jessica. “After just five months, I found myself so happy and content with my new life and taking the next steps towards my dream job.

“I can’t thank Sgiliau enough for helping me grow into who I am today. I have always wanted to help people and I really enjoy volunteering with the company, which has encouraged me to want to be a teacher.”

Charlotte Evans, a director of Risca-based Sgiliau Cyf, described Jessica’s development since beginning the Traineeship as “incredible” and praised her for volunteering to help others who are experiencing issues similar to what she herself has faced.

“We don’t want to dampen her enthusiasm and ambition to go to university, but we would employ Jessica – she has that special factor we look for. She is a superb role model,” said Charlotte.

Minister for the Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates, said: “Our Apprenticeship and Traineeship Programmes are helping people fulfil their career ambitions and I’m delighted we have already reached our target of creating 100,000 apprenticeships in this Senedd term. 

“This has been key in helping apprentices of all ages to gain important skills and experience that we know businesses across all sectors of the economy in Wales really need. This will be vital as we emerge from the pandemic.

“Apprenticeship Awards Cymru provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate and showcase the achievements of all involved, from star apprentices to skilled learning providers.

“I’d like to congratulate all the finalists announced for this year’s event and wish each and every one all the best for the future.”

Picture caption:

Jessica Apps –  a superb role model.

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