Newport-based Intellectual Property Office has picked up the title of Large Employer of the Year Award at the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru.

Jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales, the awards ceremony brought together 30 shortlisted finalists at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport.

The awards, sponsored by Pearson PLC, are designed to showcase and celebrate the outstanding achievements of learners, employers and work-based learning practitioners who have excelled in contributing to the development of the Welsh Government’s Traineeships and Apprenticeship programmes.

The IPO was the only local winner.

Congratulating all the award winners and shortlisted finalists, skills and science minister, Julie James, said: “This year’s finalists include exceptional individuals who have excelled in their workplace and learning providers and employers that have gone the extra mile to support the apprentices they are working with. Each has helped to set a gold standard in vocational training and this should be applauded.

“Apprenticeships are an essential ingredient of economic success and a vital tool in building a stronger, fairer and more equal Wales. The Welsh Government, with support from the European Social Fund, regards apprenticeships as an excellent way to build a skilled and competitive workforce, address skills shortages and strengthen the Welsh economy.

“Increasing higher level skills and developing skills pathways that benefit the whole of Wales has never been more important and we are committed to continuing the good work already underway with businesses, training providers and individuals to achieve this.”

Sarah John, NTfW chairman, said: “These awards are the highlight of the year for everyone connected with the delivery of these successful Apprenticeship and Traineeship programmes. We are proud that Wales has the best Apprenticeship system in the UK.

“As a network we have fought, for many years, to achieve parity of esteem between vocational and academic qualifications. The Welsh Government’s pledge to create a minimum of 100,000 high quality, all-age apprenticeships over five years, with a focus on higher level skills and developing skills pathways, has certainly helped.

“However, the challenge remains to ensure school leavers in Wales are aware of all the career routes available to them – both academic and vocational. Only then will we achieve true parity of opportunity.”