An inspirational lecturer from Cardiff and Vale College, who has overcome a spinal injury to develop a rewarding teaching career, has been named Trainer of the Year in this year’s Vocational Qualification (VQ) Awards for Wales.
Tom Jones champions experimental learning, often using body armour, protective equipment and army uniforms to get over a message. Many of his 14-16 age group students may not have seen a school classroom for months, so engaging them in learning often requires a different approach.
The VQ Trainer of the Year Award recognises individual trainers who have made a telling contribution to supporting learners in the workplace to achieve excellence whilst also constantly improving their own skills and knowledge.
He collected his award at a ceremony held at The Exchange Hotel, Cardiff on May 3 to coincide with VQ Day. The awards are organised by the Welsh Government in partnership with the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), ColegauCymru / CollegesWales and Qualifications Wales.
The awards are designed to reward individuals and organisations for their commitment, hard work and achievements.
“I wasn’t expecting to win the award because the competition was so strong,” said Tom. “This award shows that just because your life may not have been plain sailing, it doesn’t mean you can’t change direction and vocational qualifications are the way to do it. They allow you to open your mind in a different way and to push yourself.
“To win this national award is a fantastic achievement in a relatively short space of time and hopefully it will help to develop my career. However, my greatest reward is watching my students develop.”
As for the future, he said:
“I am currently developing the college’s first cadet force and I would like to see that progress. I am also leading a new HND course in public services and I would like to take students from level one to level five.”
The fact that he has gone through his own dark days helps him relate to his students. A damaged spine whilst training for the Royal Air Force left him in a wheelchair, with a history of operations and deep depression.
“I spent my first year teacher training in a wheelchair, the second on crutches, and the third barely walking,” he said.
Tom’s lectures are underpinned with trust, equality, humour and careful planning. Four years in the Army Reserves instilled discipline which he takes into the lecture room and 90% of his students’ progress to further learning.
His inspiring approach to learning extends to digital where he has created a YouTube channel encouraging group chats and forums. “Education has given me the chance to do things I never thought I could, so I want to encourage my learners to have this experience too,” said Tom.
James Young, head of the college’s sport, tourism and public services department, said: “Being both physically disabled and dyslexic, Tom has experience of how barriers can impact on learning. As a result, Tom champions equality.”
Vocational qualifications are important to the economy, companies and individuals, as they deliver the trained, talented employees that businesses are crying out for and ensure young people have the skills needed to succeed in education and work.
Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan congratulated Tom.
“A VQ award is a symbol of dedication towards a chosen profession, demonstrating to others a real commitment towards personal and professional development,” she said.
“The awards help us to celebrate those Welsh employers, learners and trainers who are already going that extra mile when it comes to developing vocational skills and qualifications.”
The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.