THOUSANDS of people in Carmarthenshire could now eligible for free training to rewrite their career by setting up a Personal Learning Account.
As part of the Welsh Government programme, Coleg Ceredigion and Coleg Sir Gar are running several courses in sectors that are ripe for job opportunities, including construction, finance, IT, health and safety, project management and engineering.
The programme is aimed at those who are currently on furlough, on a zero hours contract, or whose job is at risk, providing they are 19 or over and earning under £26,000.
Following a successful pilot with Coleg Gwent and Grwp Llandrillo Menai which saw around 500 people across Wales enrol on fully-funded part-time courses, Personal Learning Accounts are now being rolled out nationally to help thousands of people in Wales boost their skills and employability.
All courses have been specifically designed to match skills gaps already identified in priority sectors in Wales. Employers and stakeholders have worked in partnership with colleges to develop courses that are relevant to sectors which are expected to create job opportunities now or in the near future.
All courses are part-time and are truly flexible, designed for study around other commitments such as a current job. Many are being delivered online meaning learners can study remotely and in the evenings and weekends.
Some of the courses running at Coleg Ceredigion and Coleg Sir Gar throughout January and February are aimed at people running their own business and include Brand Strategy, Social Media for Business, Coaching and Mentoring, NEBOSH Managing Safely and IOSH Working Safely.
Minister for Education Kirsty Williams said: “The impact of the pandemic has unfortunately affected many industries, with many people looking at ways to gain new work skills, perhaps at their local college.
“Personal Learning Accounts are designed to help people in employment and whose jobs may be at risk. If you’re worried about the certainty of your employment, or you’re on furlough or a zero hours contract, accessing a free Personal Learning Account could provide you with the skills and qualifications to embark on a new and rewarding career.
“As we work towards a Welsh right to lifelong learning, the PLAs show what can be achieved for individuals, the economy and the country as a whole.”
One learner who has already taken part in the Brand Strategy course is self-employed personal trainer, James Cartwright. The gym James works at was closed over lockdown meaning James was unable to continue his work. James completed the Brand Strategy course to help boost his business and has since signed up for a six-week course in Social Media for Small Business.
He said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the course and can’t wait for the next one. From the first session it’s really provoked a lot of thought into what I’m doing and given me so much clarity already on where I need to take things.”
Jemma Parsons, PLA Project Co-ordinator, Business Development and Employer Engagement Team at Coleg Ceredigion and Coleg Sir Gar, said: “We are delighted to be working with Welsh Government and the Regional Skills Partnership to deliver the Personal Learning Account. We look forward to supporting individuals in their training and development to progress in current and new careers and fulfil their aspirations. This funded training has come at what is a very difficult time for all.
“We hope to support individuals through face to face learning where possible, adhering to Government restrictions to ensure that all of our learners and staff keep safe, but have developed the New Year Provision to include online and Virtual Classroom learning.
“We look forward to offering individuals and employers the opportunity to upskill in areas such as Digital and Technology, Media, Health and Social Care, Construction and Creative Industries. We have some very exciting collaborations planned which will further the opportunities for individuals and employers in the region.”
Careers advice for deaf children
THOUSANDS of young, deaf people across Wales will benefit from tailored careers advice for years to come thanks to a new partnership.
Careers Wales, which gives free and impartial careers guidance to young people, has joined forces with the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru to help better meet the needs of the country’s 2,500 deaf young people.
The partnership was established after deaf young people revealed they were worried about how being deaf would affect their employment prospects.
Concerned that young people wrongly thought their deafness was a barrier to employment, the two organisations held two focus groups to ask deaf young people about the careers advice they’d received and how it could be improved.
The results showed that deaf young people were often low on confidence, unaware of their rights and knew little about Government funding or technology that could help them in the workplace or higher education.
In response to the findings, the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru will now work together with Careers Wales and provide training to its careers
advisers to enhance their understanding of deaf awareness, accessibility and the key careers information that affects deaf young people.
The partnership means that current and future generations of deaf young people in Wales will benefit from more accessible and tailored careers advice.
As a result, thousands more across Wales could receive the knowledge, confidence and encouragement they need to make informed career choices and pursue their chosen ambition.
Previous research from the National Deaf Children’s Society with over 100 deaf young people across the UK showed that two thirds would hide their deafness on a job application, while almost half (45%) did not feel supported by their school or college when thinking about choices for the future.
Debbie Thomas, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Careers Wales and with this extra training, careers advisers will be able to give deaf young people the crucial advice they need in a format that’s tailored to them.
“Deaf young people are just as capable as hearing young people, but all too often they’re held back by the myths and misconceptions that surround deafness and the workplace. This needs to change.
“There’s an entire generation of deaf potential out there and this is a really positive step towards fully unleashing it.”
Nerys Bourne, Head of Services to Young People at Careers Wales, said: “We’re very pleased to be working with the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru to enhance our commitment to providing effective careers guidance and coaching to deaf young people in Wales.
“Providing this additional training to our advisers will enable them to focus more efficiently on the specific needs of young people within this group and to support them with a tailored and empowering careers advice service.
“We believe that this is a positive step towards equipping deaf young people in Wales with the right knowledge, awareness and confidence to succeed in their chosen career path.”
Officers celebrate completing first programme with University of South Wales
A GROUP of eight Dyfed-Powys Police officers are celebrating becoming the first in England and Wales to complete a new graduate diploma in policing.
The PCs mark the end of the Graduate Diploma Professional Policing Practice at the University of South Wales (USW) with a virtual celebratory event on Friday, February 5th. A traditional formal graduation will take place once social distancing restrictions have been lifted and it is safe to celebrate in person.
Having experienced a combination of university lectures and academic learning with life on the beat, the officers are the first in Wales and England to complete the Degree Holder Entry Programme (DHEP) and gain a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.
With backgrounds ranging from sports management to criminology and biology, the officers are now based across the force as fully licensed police officers responding to calls and investigating incidents.
Superintendent Ross Evans, force lead for Learning and Development, said: “This event marks the end of two years of hard work by our students, who are the first police officers in England and Wales to complete the DHEP course.
“Not only have they been the first cohort to combine real-life policing experiences on division with academic learning, but they have successfully managed this while reacting to the operational changes and challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have no doubt that the theory and practice of the diploma, coupled with the support from USW and our in-force learning and development department, will have put them in very good stead as they begin their careers with Dyfed-Powys Police in earnest.”
The DHEP forms part of the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF) and is a two-year graduate diploma.
Dyfed-Powys Police and USW are working in collaboration to deliver the PEQF initial entry programmes to all new police officer recruits, whether through the DHEP or Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA), and support students academically and occupationally.
From the first day of the course, the group became both serving police officers and USW students. Student officers gained independent patrol status by the end of the first year, and were required to complete an Operational Competency Portfolio by the end of year two.
Supt Evans added: “This is a new approach to police training, and one we have embraced and embedded at Dyfed-Powys.
“The PCs from this course are already passing their learning on to the next cohort of officers, and we are confident that their unique skills and experience will enhance the force and the service we provide to our communities.
“My thanks go to the students themselves, who have shown dedication and commitment to both their university work and their policing duties, as well as their families and friends for their support over the past two years.”
Peter Vaughan QPM, Director of the International Centre for Policing and Security at USW, said: “We are incredibly proud to be partnered with Heddlu Dyfed-Powys Police (HDPP) and to be celebrating this significant achievement with the graduates of our first Policing Practice programme.
“Congratulating these Dyfed-Powys student officers on becoming the first in Wales and England to achieve their Graduate Diploma under the PEQF marks a very important occasion for us all and we very much hope that they have enjoyed studying with us as much as we have enjoyed teaching them.
“The professionalisation of the education provided to those who enter the police service at the rank of constable is a fundamental aim of the PEQF and we are proud to be contributing to this important endeavour with our partners at HDPP.”
Dafydd Llywelyn, Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner said: “I’d like to congratulate each and every one of the eight graduates for their fantastic achievement in gaining this new and innovative qualification.
“Gaining a qualification where the study methods include a combination of experience out on the beat, and also an academic input from both our Dyfed-Powys Police Learning and Development team and lecturers at University of South Wales, provides an excellent foundation for developing a successful career in policing, and I look forward to working with all eight graduates here in Dyfed-Powys, and hopefully see their careers developing further.”
Jo Noakes, Director of Workforce Development at the College of Policing, said: “The College is pleased to congratulate Dyfed-Powys’s eight newly confirmed police constables on completion of the Degree Holder Entry Programme. This is a significant milestone in the adoption of the new initial entry routes into policing as they are the first in England and Wales to complete any of the new programmes for police constable.
“We would like to commend Dyfed-Powys on their enthusiastic and positive approach to the challenge of bringing the new learning programmes to life. This is a huge achievement, particularly in the context of the national police uplift programme and the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Pupils face phased return to school
WALES’ teaching unions reacted cautiously to the Welsh Government’s announcement of a phased return to face-to-face schooling.
Most under-16s in Wales have not attended school since before Christmas. At that time, a rolling series of lockdowns in schools combined with parents’ anxieties to cut classroom time.
At the last minute, the Welsh Government abandoned a planned return to direct teaching for the current school term.
Since January, the overwhelming majority of under-16s have got their lessons online.
FIRST MINISTER SETS TARGET
Last Friday (Jan 29), Mark Drakeford announced the youngest children in Wales could begin returning to school after the February half-term. Their return will depend on rates of coronavirus continuing to fall.
Rates of coronavirus across Wales have fallen below 200 cases per 100,000 people for the first time since early November. And every day, thousands more people receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine – the latest figures show almost 11% of the population have been vaccinated.
The return to primary school will be planned in a phased and flexible way from February 22, if the public health situation continues to improve. Students studying vocational qualifications will also be among those prioritised for the phased return to colleges.
However, those studying at Welsh universities will not return to their campuses until after Easter.
SCIENCE & SAFETY MUST LEAD WAY
Dilwyn Roberts-Young, UCAC General Secretary said “Everyone wants to see a return to face-to-face learning as soon as it is safe to do so – the advantages for children, young people, families and staff are clear.
“We welcome the fact that the final decision about any possible phased and flexible return will be based on the latest scientific and medical evidence. We note the need to provide schools and colleges with sufficient notice to put the relevant arrangements in place, before half term.
“We will continue discussions with the Welsh Government, local government and Further Education colleges to ensure that any return is as safe as possible for everyone. We will certainly be raising the issue of vaccinating staff in these discussions, as well as the need to ensure support for the mental, emotional and physical health of staff and pupils.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We are making steady progress in bringing coronavirus under control once again. Every day, the vaccination programme is speeding up as more people are vaccinated and more clinics open. Each vaccine is another small victory against the virus.
“We’ve seen a really welcome fall in cases of the virus all over Wales, but they are still too high and the NHS continues to be under intense pressure.
“We need to keep the lockdown restrictions in place for a little while longer to help us bring rates of the virus down further. If we can do this, we will create the headroom we need to get children back to school after half term – starting with the youngest at primary schools
“We will work with teachers, colleges, local authorities to plan for the safe return of children to school over the next couple of weeks and keep parents updated.”
CAUTION CALLED FOR
NEU Cymru’s Senior Wales Officer, Gareth Lloyd, said: “We welcome that Welsh Government want to use any ‘headroom’ created by sustained efforts to suppress the virus, to support the education sector. We have highlighted the need for a range of measures to be put in place – such as smaller class sizes and social distancing. NEU Cymru continues to work with the Welsh Government to try and make any wider return as safe as possible.
“We must be mindful that everyone will be apprehensive about a potential rise in the virus levels if we open up too quickly, so a phased approach is welcome, as a safe return is essential.
“It is really important to remember that schools and colleges are open now, and that education professionals are working hard to support children and young people with their learning, through this challenging time for everyone. Educators want a full return to the classroom, as nothing is better than face-to-face learning for everyone. But sadly we are not in that place at the moment.”
Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said: “It has been a challenge for families to juggle employment and home-learning, and school leaders want to see nothing more than pupils back in class as soon as it is safe to do so.
“But it is clear that there are still too many unknowns, such as the effectiveness of the vaccine and the pace at which infections are falling, to put the February 22 date firmly in the diary yet.
“Talks have already begun between the Welsh Government and trade unions to make sure that there is a workable plan for lifting the lockdown. This includes reviewing all of the safety measures that schools have been using up to now, to make sure they are still effective.
“The Welsh Government will also have to put effort into reassuring families that it is safe to send their children back to school – there is a confidence test the government must pass to make the return a success.
“It is also important that the teaching workforce is prioritised for vaccinations. This would give confidence as well as providing a better chance that once lockdown measures are lifted, children’s education is less likely to continue to be disrupted by staff absence and illness.”
The Welsh Government has so far resisted calls to move teachers up the priority list for vaccinations, although Suzy Davies, the Conservatives’ Shadow Minister for Education first called for it to do so at the beginning of January.
Speaking on January 8, Suzy Davies said: “Welsh Conservatives have called for early vaccination of school staff. Everyone recognises how the virus has damaged education, affecting pupils and teachers alike, and no stone should be left unturned.”
At the same time as making that call, Mrs Davies highlighted the digital deficit which discriminates between those with access to devices to enable remote learning and those without. This week, the Welsh Government confirmed it had provided thousands of devices and means of access to school students in need but could not identify how many children remained without online access.
Responding to the First Minister’s announcement last week, Suzy Davies said: “The effectiveness of remote online learning across all age groups during the pandemic has been at best patchy, and our young people’s education has consequently suffered terribly for almost a year now.
“So, we welcome the announcement that a phased return for pupils, beginning with primary-aged ones, will begin from February 22. It’s what Welsh Conservatives have advocated as a safe and sensible approach to take knowing that Coronavirus doesn’t seem to follow any sort of predictable pattern.
“What we want now is a can-do, will-do attitude to opening all our schools as quickly as possible”
“We’re all hoping that this lockdown will be the last one, and Welsh Conservatives will work with the government to make this happen because too many futures depend on it working.”
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Education, Siân Gwenllian MS said that the safety of all pupils and school staff should be the main driver of policy in preparation for the reopening of schools.
Ms Gwenllian continued: “The UK Labour Party has called for teachers to be vaccinated, suggesting this be done during half term week ahead of schools re-opening. Yet – in Wales – the Labour government has ruled out prioritising giving teachers the vaccine.
“The safety of all pupils and school staff should be the main policy driver as we prepare
“Vulnerable groups should not be de-prioritised as the vaccine is rolled out, but the staff in school settings should be added to the second tranche of the rollout unless sufficient vaccine supplies allow them to be included earlier. This will give maximum confidence that schools can re-open as safely as possible.”
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