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Education

Coleg Sir Gar students triumph at World Skills

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Flying the flag: Elizabeth Forkuoh

TEAM UK retained its top-10 position at WorldSkills this year, after competitors won one gold, three silvers, three bronzes, and 13 medallions of excellence in Abu Dhabi.

And for the Welsh contingent, there was well-deserved success with chef-de-rang Elizabeth Forkuoh from Carmarthenshire representing Coleg Sir Gâr, who won a medal of excellence for her world-class skills in restaurant services at WorldSkills, Abu Dhabi.

Around 10,000 competitors, skills experts, officials and supporters from 60 countries and regions around the world looked on as the 44th WorldSkills competition – the first to take place in the Middle East – was opened.

UWTSD’s Gareth Evans, who is the centre co-ordinator at Construction Wales Innovation Centre, was the appointed WorldSkills UK expert for carpentry at the prestigious competition. This highly coveted role enabled Gareth join the WorldSkills UK training team for WorldSkills, the world’s largest international skills competition. Gareth undertook this appointment alongside his role at the Construction Wales Innovation Centre, which is funded by the CITB and is part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Gareth had responsibility for training Cameron Nutt, an apprentice from Northern Ireland who represented the UK in carpentry at WorldSkills. During the event, Gareth was also an international judge for the carpentry competition, which saw over 20 apprentices compete from many countries including Australia, South Korea and Germany.

To qualify for this position, Gareth, who himself won many national and international accolades as a competitor, had to demonstrate his knowledge and experience of teaching standards in construction both in the UK and internationally.

Backing Team UK and the Welsh contingency was Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion principal Barry Liles who in his role as Skills Champion for Wales and in partnership with the Welsh Government-funded Inspiring Skills Excellence project, ensured the Welsh contingency was supported throughout their competition journey.

Barry Liles said: “WorldSkills is an extravaganza of an event which replicates the Olympic Games, showcasing the very best of skills from young people around the world who have been through a rigorous competition journey.

“For me, being part of WorldSkills is crucial in not only raising aspirations of our young people but raising their skills levels, for Wales to take a competitive stand in a global economy.

“I was thrilled to see Elizabeth win a medal of excellence as she’s trained phenomenally hard, as have all our competitors.

“Witnessing Team UK, the Welsh squad and Coleg Sir Gâr competitors on the world stage will always be a very proud moment for me.”

Gareth Evans said: “Attending the WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi is an excellent experience for any individual. To watch over 1300 competitors from 59 member countries in action during the week was incredible. The commitment and dedication displayed by the competitors in all 51 Skills was amazing. WorldSkills Competitions allow these young people to showcase how skills initially honed through Further and Higher Education courses make such an impact to their lives. Two years ago, my competitor Cameron Nutt from North West Regional College in Northern Ireland completed his Level 3 Diploma in Site Carpentry. Who would have thought that sometime later he would be competing on the world stage, mixing it against 22 other competitors?”

Elizabeth Forkuoh, a hospitality, supervision and leadership student at Coleg Sir Gâr and former pupil of Coedcae Comprehensive School, represented the college within Team UK at the largest international skills Olympics.

The journey towards Team UK selection has been a life-changing experience for Elizabeth and also for Alfie Hopkin who represented the college competing in the web design competition.

Elizabeth steadily rose through the competition ranks whilst at college and made such significant headway in UKSkills competitions, she received employment offers from some of the top restaurants in the country. As a result, she now works for Gleneagles in Scotland, one of the best restaurants in the UK for customer care and food service. She also underwent professional training at The Ritz, completed a wine appreciation course in London and attended a training event in Taiwan. She also won a British Education award when she was at college and working part-time at the Stradey Park Hotel.

Alfie Hopkin, a former Ysgol Glan y Mor student, is studying a computing and IT level three diploma at Coleg Sir Gâr. Throughout his competition journey, Alfie received significant training from the college and UKSkills to prepare him for the Abu Dhabi event including design training at James Good, JavaScript and Clientside training in Norway and pressure testing in Brazil.

Elizabeth and Alfie were two out of four competitors representing Wales within Team UK.

Elizabeth said: “It’s been hard work over the last few years but with the support of my employer and trainer, I have given my best and I definitely know that fine dining is where I belong.”

Speaking about the UK team, Gareth added: “By competing at the event, the UK team showcased the great level of excellence and technical knowledge displayed by young people in the UK. Furthermore, it also showcases the excellent level of training provided by UK’s Education Establishments. We at the Construction Wales Innovation Centre and The University of Wales Trinity Saint David are proud to have played a part in the World-Class training required by Team UK competitors in the run-up to WorldSkills Abu Dhabi. We are also looking forward to support the Team further in the run up to WorldSkills Kazan 2019.”

He added: “Having been a competitor myself in Team UK, and winning Gold in Carpentry at two National Competitions. I know how the preparation and the experience of competing enables apprentices to gain the high level employability skills that will drive the construction industry forward. I’m so pleased to have supported these young people to achieve their goals and strive for excellence.”

Emphasising the importance of promoting skills excellence at all levels Gerald Naylor, the Director of the Construction Wales Innovation Centre said the Centre will continue to support Gareth in his competition work. Gerald is also keen to see the Coleg Sir Gar development of the new construction technical & professional skills competition supported by UWTSD, the Construction industry Training Board and the Chartered Institution of Building.

Education

Wales gets cosmic ray detector network

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Truly innovative research: Welsh students' major opportunity

A NETWORK of instruments used to detect showers of high-energy particles raining down on Earth, are in the process of being set-up in Wales for the very first time.

The major international project will give schoolchildren the chance to explore some of the most important questions in astrophysics.

The particles, known as cosmic rays, travel from deep space at nearly the speed of light and are thought to originate from the regions around black holes and exploding stars. They’ve been hitting the earth and other planets since the solar system formed.

By detecting cosmic rays, scientists all over the world hope to learn more about some of astronomy’s biggest questions, such as the origin of the Universe, the death of stars, and how galaxies and black holes form. On Earth, observations of cosmic rays have also been used to ‘look inside’ volcanoes, and recently helped discover a large hidden chamber in the Great Pyramid at Giza.

A detector is currently under construction in Swansea University, with plans for another at the proposed Oriel Science exhibition centre in Swansea’s city centre. The network’s first detector has already been installed on the roof of Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy near the city centre.

Professor Chris Allton, from Swansea University’s Oriel Science and Department of Physics, said: “We are excited to link with Cardiff and provide a detector array across south Wales for school students to access. It will really help inspire these students to become the next generation of scientists in Wales.”

The team are now exploring the possibility of installing another detector at a school in Wales, as the network will also be used as an educational resource for schoolchildren across the country.

The £93K ‘QuarkNet Cymru’ project is being funded by the Welsh Government’s National Science Academy and links Wales to two major international projects – the “High School Project on Astrophysics Research with Cosmics” (HiSPARC) in Europe, and US-based “QuarkNet” programme.

HiSPARC and QuarkNet enable secondary schools and academic institutions to join forces and form a network to measure cosmic rays. They offer students the opportunity to participate in real research, with the purpose of finding out more about these mysterious cosmic particles.

When a cosmic ray encounters the Earth’s atmosphere, it creates a cascade of secondary particles called muons which spread out as they travel to the ground. By using detectors sensitive to muons, the schoolchildren will be able to work with the data to find out information about the original cosmic ray, such as its energy and where it came from in the sky.

From January 2018, schools will be able to loan particle physics equipment from Swansea and Cardiff Universities, with the addition of workshops and presentations to engage the schoolchildren in real-life cosmic ray research.

Dr Paul Roche, from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for school students from across Wales to get involved with some exciting astrophysics, using data taken from our own instruments that are now part of this international research programme.”

Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport commented: “The QuarkNet Cymru project is an excellent example of how, working with global leaders in the field, Welsh Government investment is helping facilitate truly innovative research into some of the most important questions in astrophysics. More locally, it’s particularly pleasing to see such investment enabling QuarkNet Cymru and its network to deliver engaging Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics activities to pupils across Wales.”

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Education

Aber academics shortlisted for research awards

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(L-R): Professor Colin McInnes, shortlisted for the Special Achievement Award; Dr Elin Royles who has been shortlisted for the Research Impact Award with Dr Huw Lewis and Dr Catrin Wyn Edwards; Dr Catrin Wyn Edwards, shortlisted for Early Career Researcher of the Year; Dr Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, shortlisted for the Research Innovation Award

RESEARCHERS at Aberystwyth University were shortlisted for awards at the 2017 Welsh Social Research Awards​,​ which took place in Cardiff on Thursday evening (Dec 7).

Hosted by the Social Research Association and sponsored by Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford AM, the awards recognise and celebrate outstanding research by social science researchers in Wales.

The finalists feature academics from the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University, with nominations in each of the four categories; Special Achievement Award, Early Career Researcher of the Year, Research Impact Award and the Research Innovation Award.

Special Achievement Award: Professor Colin McInnes, UNESCO Professor of HIV/AIDS Education and Health Security in Africa

A leading expert on global health and international relations at Aberystwyth University, Professor McInnes was appointed Vice-Chair of the United Kingdom National Commission (UKNC) for UNESCO in January 2017.

Early Career Researcher of the Year: Dr Catrin Wyn Edwards

Dr Edwards has been researching the linguistic integration of migrants into sub-states, specifically Catalonia and Wales, and Quebec and New Brunswick in Canada.

Research Impact Award: Dr Huw Lewis, Dr Elin Royles and Dr Catrin Wyn Edwards

Working within the WISERD Centre for Welsh Politics and Society at Aberystwyth, Dr Huw Lewis, Dr Elin Royles and Dr Catrin Wyn Edwards have been shortlisted for their work on informing and influencing the policy discussion that fed into the preparation of the Welsh Government’s new national language strategy, Cymraeg 2050: A Million Welsh Speakers, published in July 2017.

Research I​n​novation Award: Dr Berit Bliesemann de Guevara

Working with researchers at Cardiff University, Dr Bliesemann de Guevara has been nominated for the project​ ‘Using a drawing workshop to explore the infertility experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic women in Wales’.

Professor Chris Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research at Aberystwyth said: “Aberystwyth University possesses a long and distinguished record of world leading social sciences research that is widely recognised for its excellence, originality, significance and rigour. I am delighted to see the work of colleagues recognised in this way.”

According to the latest review of UK research quality, REF 2014, 95% of the research activity submitted by Aberystwyth University was of an internationally recognised standard or higher, with world leading research identified in all 17 of the Units of Assessment submitted.

The Department of International Politics was rated top in Wales, with over 75% of its research considered world leading or internationally excellent (REF2014).

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Education

New standards for FE staff launched

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Eluned Morgan: 'Vocational learning every bit as important as academic education'

NEW professional standards for staff in the further education and work-based learning sectors were launched at the ColegauCymru Conference on Post 16 Education last Thursday (Nov 30).

The standards will set high expectations for all practitioners and be more explicit about the role of high-quality collaborative professional learning to support improvements. They reflect the importance of ongoing professional learning for staff and the role vocational learning plays in creating the skilled, innovative and adaptable workforce Wales needs.

Speaking at the conference, Eluned Morgan, Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, said: “Vocational learning is every bit as important as academic education and if we want the best for our vocational learners their teachers, tutors and assessors have to be supported in their role. These new standards set out a clear, aspirational framework for the sector to work to.

“The critical principle of vocational education is that those working in both FE and WBL tend to operate as dual professionals, as experts both in a ‘vocation’ and as ‘teachers’. This has been made a central strand throughout the standards.

“I am confident that these standards will further engage and motivate practitioners and their employers in their pursuit for excellence and improved outcomes for all.”

Kelly Edwards Head of Work Based Learning Quality at the National Training Federation Wales said: “The Work-based Learning sector was delighted to be involved in the development of the new standards. The standards will support professional learning for WBL practitioners, with a key focus on developing the dual professional. We welcome the standards as an important step to enhance professional recognition for the WBL sector in Wales.”

Iestyn Davies, Chief Executive of ColegauCymru, Wales’ post compulsory education charity, added: “The development of professional standards is a move which is welcomed by ColegauCymru. Further Education provides the practical skills and knowledge that communities rely upon, we fully endorse and will promote these standards as a way of ensuring that the public and the profession alike are clear on what is required to continue to deliver world class skills in the rapidly changing world of work.”

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