Vocational qualifications help patient care as health board reaches finals of VQ Awards

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Jill Williams, vocational education manager at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board with Ivor Bowler in a newly created role of Renal Unit housekeeper at the Maelor Hospital, Wrexham.

A North Wales health board has reached the finals of the VQ Awards 2013 after using staff vocational qualifications to help ensure patient care and enhance services.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, based at Wrexham, has put Vocational Qualifications (VQs) at the heart of its training and development, with over 70 employees achieving VQs in 2012 alone in recognition of the valuable contribution of all staff roles.

The health board’s commitment to the development of staff vocational qualifications has helped it reach the EU-backed VQ Employer of the Year award final, which takes place on June 5 – VQ Day – at a ceremony to be held at Coleg Morgannwg, Nantgarw in South Wales.

The health board will be up against Capita of Nantgarw, near Cardiff and Flintshire County Council in the finals.

“The acquisition of a relevant vocational qualification ensures that all care staff have achieved the skills needed to deliver consistently high quality patient care,” said Jill Williams, Vocational Education Manager at the health board.

Such is the importance of VQs that a bespoke Vocational Education Department has been established. Its team has clinical and educational skills and delivers training that is appropriate and accessible to all, supported by a number of external training providers.

Over the last two years, 110 candidates have gained a level two qualification, while 302 candidates have gained a level three, including health, health and social care, maternity, pathology, pre and post operative, children and support services.

The health board also has a health apprenticeship scheme, which is built upon vocational qualifications.

“Some of these staff are themselves experienced support workers who started their career through acquiring VQs,” said Jill Williams, vocational education manager.

“They now have a passion to promote VQs throughout the Health Board as they have a real understanding of the VQs’ role in the promotion of administering excellent care.

New roles have been developed as a result of vocational training, including Ward Housekeepers who all achieve the Health Care Support Services VQ.

Just some of the benefits include efficient stock control and less waste, widespread improvement in infection control and more patient support at meal times.

Maternity support workers have also been introduced through the acquisition of relevant VQ’s.“This is seen as a valuable and prestigious role within maternity and means midwives can delegate home visits to maternity support workers. The mother is then able to access competent and consistent care from all members of the maternity team,” said Jill.

VQ Day is designed to celebrate vocational skills and the success they bring, raise standards throughout Wales and identify and publicise exemplars. In addition, the awards highlight that vocational skills improve the performance of individuals and organisations and equip Wales with a world class workforce.

Vocational qualifications have never been more important to the economy and the individual, as they deliver the trained, talented employees businesses are crying out for and ensure young people have the skills needed to succeed in education and work.

Wales’ Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Jeff Cuthbert said: “ It’s important that vocational qualifications become, and remain, first choice options for our brightest and best learners and that their worth is fully recognised. VQ Day plays a key role in securing that objective.

“Vocational qualifications haven’t always enjoyed the high-profile and public esteem that they deserve but, as employers will readily testify, they are immensely valuable in preparing people for successful careers in many different fields. They are the cornerstone of a competitive economy.

“One of my priorities since being appointed Deputy Minister has been to ensure that vocational qualifications are recognised alongside academic qualifications for their value to the individual and society.

“That is why, following an independent review of qualifications, the Welsh Government is already taking steps to ensure that vocational qualifications remain relevant, valued and fit for the future. I hope that this year’s VQ Day will inspire even more individuals to consider a vocational pathway to success, further cementing the position of vocational qualifications at the heart of our economy and national life.”

VQ Day and the VQ Awards are co-ordinated in Wales by ColegauCymru and the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) with the support of the Welsh Government and part funded by the European Social Fund.

Three regional events in Wales will celebrate VQ Day by shining a spotlight on the quality, variety and diversity of vocational qualifications.

In North Wales, Deeside College’s Connah’s Quay Campus is arranging hands-on demonstrations of vocational skills assisted by a range of post-16 education and training providers.

The South West Wales Regional Learning Partnership will also provide hands-on opportunities at Aberavon Shopping Centre, Swansea City Centre and St Elli Shopping Centre in Llanelli. Local radio will be supporting the day across Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

Apart from hosting the VQ Awards ceremony, Coleg Morgannwg’s Nantgarw Campus will bring education and training providers together with employers to lead workshops and hands-on opportunities.

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