Michael at the reins for a dream career working with horses
Michael Whippey’s love of horses has taken him from his home in Aberdare via a world famous English riding school to an equestrian centre in Buckinghamshire where he has recently been promoted to chief instructor.
Along the way the former Bridgend College learner has collected a string of vocational qualifications with a view to establishing his own equestrian training school in the future.
His learning journey has won him a place in the final of this year’s prestigious VQ (Vocational Qualification) Awards in Wales. He is one of six finalists in the running to become VQ Learner of the Year at the showpiece awards ceremony on June 9, the eve of VQ Day, at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff.
Organised by the Welsh Government’s Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) and CollegesWales, the VQ Awards help to showcase individuals and organisations that have raised the standard of the services they offer as a result of vocational qualifications.
The awards, which are part funded by the European Social Fund, are now in their eighth year and coincide with Vocational Qualifications Day – a UK-wide celebration of vocational qualifications for students, teachers, training providers and employers – which is held on June 10.
Michael’s love of horses began when he started riding at the age of five and has been totally focused on an equestrian career since leaving school.
He obtained a BTEC National Diploma in horse management with triple distinctions and a British Horse Society assistant instructor certificate at Bridgend College’s Pencoed Campus. The qualifications helped him secure a job at the world famous Talland School of Equitation, near Cirencester where he achieved the BHS intermediate instructor certificate and became yard manager.
After gaining more experience at competition yards in Suffolk, he joined Shardeloes Farm Equestrian Centre, Amersham where he ran the hydrotherapy yard before being promoted to chief instructor in February.
He had to wait until last year, when he turned 22, before he could take the BHS Senior Equitation exam, which he passed first time. He will become one of the youngest qualified instructors in the country if he passes the final BHS Coaching exams this month.
“My advice to anyone who is leaving school and choosing a career is to do something that they love doing,” said Michael, 23. “I never feel like I’m going to work. It’s more of a lifestyle and passion.”
Sarah Allen, Curriculum Manager at Bridgend College, who nominated him for the award, said: “What is truly outstanding about Michael is the level he has achieved at just 23 years old.”
The other VQ Learner of the Year finalists are: Casey Coleman, 28, salon artistic director at Ocean Hairdressing, Cardiff; James Pepper, 39, technical services director at Vista Retail Support Ltd, Pentwyn, Cardiff; Paul Wiggins, 35, from Cardiff, a chartered insurance broker at BPW Insurance Services, Newport; former Bridgend College learner Serena Torrance, 23, of Maesteg who is taking a criminology degree at Cardiff University and former Coleg Sir Gar learner Simon McCall, 21, from Capel Dewi near Carmarthen, a self-employed carpenter and member of the WorldSkills UK Squad.
The VQ Learner the Year Award recognises learners who clearly demonstrate progression and excellence in vocational studies and have made considerable achievements in their field.
Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James congratulated Michael and fellow VQ Awards finalists.
“A VQ Award is more than just an award; it’s a symbol of dedication towards your chosen profession,” she said. “Professional and personal development programmes are utilised for staff to enable them to follow a pathway of learning to meet company, customer and individual needs.
“The VQ Awards help us to celebrate those Welsh employers and learners who are already going that extra mile when it comes to developing vocational skills and qualifications.
“If the Welsh economy is to continue to grow then we must ensure that employers, individuals and the Welsh Government work together to invest in the right skills for success in order to equip Wales with a world class work force.”