A number of Gwent-based businesses and individuals were among those to be recognised at the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2021.

The annual awards, held virtually this year, showcased 35 finalists who have excelled on the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship and Traineeship Programmes and gone the extra mile to achieve success during these unprecedented times.

Karen Richards, of Blackwood, works for ACT in Cardiff and won the Work-based Learning Tutor of the Year.

Karen uses her experience to teach Advanced Diploma and Professional Diplomas in Accounting in an engaging and fun way. In addition to teaching her own Level 4 learners at ACT, she also provides coaching support to other learning providers when their learners are struggling.

Jessica Apps and Thibaud Gailliard, winners of the Traineeship Learner of the Year for Engagement and Level 1 respectively, both had inspiring stories to tell.

Jessica, 19, moved from Botswana to begin a new life in Blaenavon with her mum and younger sister in November 2019. Now she is described as a “superb role model” and is setting her sights on a teaching career.

Thibaud, 21, from Ebbw Vale, could speak little English and had no formal qualifications or previous work experience when he arrived in Wales as a shy 16-year-old, following the loss of his mother to cancer.

Now Thibaud is fluent in English and his learning journey was described as “incredible”. He achieved a Traineeship Engagement Programme in Creative Media and a Foundation Apprenticeship in IT delivered by Risca-based training provider Sgiliau Cyf who now employ him as lead administrator

Aspire Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil collected the Large Employer of the Year Award for its Shared Apprenticeship Programme, which has plugged a manufacturing skills gap while tackling high unemployment across two local authorities.

Named Medium Employer of the Year, Convey Law from Newport is targeting 50 per cent growth in 2021 fuelled by an innovative in-house Apprenticeship Programme for conveyancers that managing director, Lloyd Davies, describes as “life-changing”.

The Apprenticeship Awards Cymru are jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales, with Openreach being the headline sponsor.

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund. Welsh Government apprenticeship programmes have benefitted 101,590 people across Wales since May 2016.

Minister for the Economy, Vaughan Gething, said: “Our winners have excelled via the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship and Traineeship programmes and gone the extra mile to achieve success during unprecedented and extremely challenging times."