Rhondda teenager wins apprenticeship award after achieving “the impossible”

Posted on by Events Team

English | Cymraeg

Gwynfor Jones receives the Foundation Apprentice of the Year award from sponsor, Nicola Thornton-Scott of NPTC Group of Colleges.

Gwynfor Jones receives the Foundation Apprentice of the Year award from sponsor, Nicola Thornton-Scott of NPTC Group of Colleges.

Gwynfor Jones, in the forest with chain saw.

Gwynfor Jones, Foundation Apprentice of the Year Winner.

Rhondda Valley teenager Gwynfor Jones, who credits work-based learning for helping him achieve “the impossible”, has been recognised with a national apprenticeship award.

Gwynfor, 18, from Treherbert, was named Foundation Apprentice of the Year at the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2024 awards ceremony held at ICC Wales, Newport.

Having struggled to focus in school and fearing social isolation during the Covid pandemic would hinder his adult development, Gwynfor has thrived since completing a Foundation Apprenticeship and now volunteers in his community.

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.

Gwynfor completed a Foundation Apprenticeship in Environmental Conservation through Bridgend College with Welcome to our Woods (WTOW), a community partnership in the Upper Rhondda Fawr connecting residents with nature.

Having volunteered with WTOW since he was 13, he was taken under the partnership’s 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.

Proudly holding his award, Gwynfor said: “I am still in shock, as didn’t expect to win and I am thankful to everyone who has got me this far. I now feel that I can achieve so much more in my life after winning this award.

“My biggest dream would be to move to Canada for a few years and learn new woodwork and management skills, anything to do with nature. I currently manage woodland and operate a sawmill.”

“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. 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 has contributed to promotional videos, promoting vocational education in both English and Welsh.

In addition to his work, he supports woodland therapy sessions, working one to one with participants, volunteers two evenings a week with Valleys Kids and is an outdoor first aider and mountain bike leader.

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: https://gov.wales/apprenticeships-genius-decision or call 03000 603000.

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