Tom Jones is not a traditional trainer. He champions experimental learning, often using body armour, protective equipment and army uniforms to get over a message.
As he points out, 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.
Now Tom has been named a finalist in this year’s Vocational Qualification (VQ) Awards in Wales, which are designed to reward individuals and organisations for their commitment, hard work and achievements.
The awards ceremony will be 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 fact that Tom, a VQ Trainer of the Year finalist, 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.
Now, married to Laura with a one-year-old son, Harri, he finally feels lecturing is his vocation.
“I spent my first year teacher training in a wheelchair, the second on crutches, and the third barely walking,” he said. “I now run a cadet programme and hope my students can relate to me.”
Tom’s lectures at Cardiff and Vale College 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.”
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.
In addition to the award ceremony, learning providers across Wales are being encouraged to organise regional events that engage with learners of all ages on VQ Day.
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 said:
“A VQ award is a symbol of dedication towards a chosen profession, demonstrating to others a real commitment towards personal and professional development.
“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.