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Engineering apprentice Sion named Apprentice of the Year

An engineering apprentice with Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has beaten competition from peers across Great Britain to be named Highways and Street Lighting Apprentice of the Year by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE).

Sion Pennell, from Rhydyfelin, won the prestigious accolade as part of APSE’s Local Authority apprentice and trainee awards scheme, open to candidates from across the country. Sion was nominated for the awards by managers within the Council’s Highways department, and following an extensive application process he was invited to attend the awards in Blackpool on Thursday, March 22, as one of eight finalists.

Sion, 20, started his two-year apprenticeship in September 2016. The Council offers a number of new apprenticeship and graduate roles each year – and, to date, 163 apprenticeship posts have been created.

In his role as a Civil Engineering Technician Apprentice, Sion has worked in a number of roles within the Council’s Highways department – including Traffic Management, Highways Infrastructure, Highways Development Control and Strategic Projects. Another of the Council’s Highways apprentices, Rhys Lloyd, who works as a Street Lighting Technician, was also one of the eight finalists.

Sion said: “The Council’s apprenticeship has been invaluable for me – I feel it has set me up for a career in this industry. I remember seeing a flyer advertising the role when I was in sixth form, and my school was supportive of pupils applying for them. I had to go through an application process, which included an interview, before I was accepted to start in September that year.

“The role has helped with my confidence and has greatly increased my knowledge of civil engineering. I’ve worked in four departments and undertaken a number of roles – everything from letter drops as part of consultation for Traffic Management purposes, to monitoring developments and planning applications, working on structures like bridges, and working on the design and detail of Strategic Projects.

“I now know I want to continue working in this industry, and I will continue to apply for permanent Technician roles with Rhondda Cynon Taf Council. The Council has been fantastic to me, and I want to give something back.”

Speaking about the APSE awards, he added: “I was asked to produce a portfolio of the work I’ve done on my apprenticeship, and APSE narrowed the applicants down several times until there were eight left from different Councils across the country, which included Rhys and myself.

“We were each interviewed for 30 minutes on the Thursday morning, where we had to expand upon our portfolio, and they also asked a number of personal questions. The winner was then announced during an evening dinner, which followed a number of seminars during the day.”

Councillor Maureen Webber, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Council Business, said:

“The APSE awards recognise not only the achievements of apprentices who are excelling in their training, but also the Councils themselves which are providing first-class training opportunities. Sion and Rhys were fantastic ambassadors for the Council and its apprenticeship scheme throughout this process, and special congratulations should go to Sion for being named Apprentice of the Year.

“The Council is rightly proud of its apprenticeship programme which offers opportunities for young people – and provides a viable option for pupils to embark upon the careers following their schooling. In 2017, the Council offered 29 apprenticeships to young people with a further 10 apprentice and seven graduate positions being offered in 2018 as part of our ongoing commitment to provide employment and development opportunities for young people.

“This means since 2012, 163 young people have benefitted from employment and training through the Council’s award-winning schemes, with the majority going on to enjoy careers with the Council.”