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Gor 2024 / Company

Vocational training is more crucial than ever to the success of the Welsh economy, says ACT founder and Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Cooksley. For the past 3 decades, ACT has been responsible for leading more than 62,000 young people in Wales into meaningful employment. As UK business leaders look to work-based training models to plug wide-ranging skills gaps predicted to follow Britain’s departure from the EU in March 2019, ACT’s CEO Andrew Cooksley insists that high-quality vocational training is key to ensuring the Welsh economy continues to thrive.

Reflecting on 30 years in business, the CEO of Wales’ leading training provider, welcomed staff, learners, business owners and officials to a special reception at The Senedd on Wednesday (September 26) to celebrate ACT’s 30th anniversary.

The celebration – attended by First Minister Carwyn Jones AM and sponsor of the event Cardiff South and Penarth AM Vaughan Gething, ACT Skills Ambassador Jonathan Davies and some of the 13,000 businesses ACT has supported in sourcing vital skills over the years – will also be a time to consider the Welsh economy’s future skills need. Andrew Cooksley commented:

 “The great thing about vocational training, is that by its very nature it is always going to be more flexible in order to suit the needs of businesses and our economy – in a way that traditional academic routes are not always able to. This ability to adapt quickly is essential to make sure we are at the forefront of developments across a range of industries so that we ensure economic prosperity.

We deliver Apprenticeships, Higher Apprenticeships and Traineeships and are Wales’ leading training provider. The success of vocational education in Wales is also down to the long-term commitment and investment from successive Welsh Governments which has embedded quality and provided stability for the sector to grow and flourish.”

First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones who was speaking at the event, reaffirmed the Welsh Government’s long-term commitment to Apprenticeships and congratulated ACT on their achievements over the past 30 years saying:

“Our commitment to deliver 100,000 quality all-age apprenticeships during this assembly term is bold and ambitious. We are very proud of the success we have already seen equipping people across Wales with the skills they need to succeed.

For the past 30 years, ACT has helped people gain the right skills. Skills that help businesses grow, that strengthen communities and empower individuals. I offer my warmest congratulations to everyone at ACT on reaching their landmark 30th anniversary and look forward to their continuing success.”

Sponsor of the event, Cardiff South and Penarth AM Vaughan Gething, also praised ACT for their efforts to improve education and increase apprenticeship opportunities:

“I am delighted to be sponsoring the 30th birthday celebrations at the Senedd. I have had the privilege of visiting ACT, which is based in my constituency, on many occasions. I have seen first-hand the fantastic work that they do to improve education, training and Apprenticeship opportunities. I look forward to continuing to work with them in the future to build on their successful achievements.”

While speaking on the exponential growth of ACT over the last 3 decades, Andrew Cooksley also commented on the responsibility that training providers have in shaping the future of Wales:

“Over the past 30 years we’ve seen the number of learners on our vocational training schemes grow from just 100 in 1988 to over 10,000 in 2017-2018 across the ACT network. When we were established, we only offered 4 courses, which has now grown to over 50. The achievement of the ACT team is quite remarkable, but we are far from complacent and know that there is more work to be done. It’s not just about learners gaining qualifications.  It’s about our responsibility as training providers to help learners become healthier, happier and more engaged citizens. They are the future of Wales.”

Phil Morris is just one example of thousands of learners who have benefitted from ACT and its vocational programmes over the past 3 decades.  After struggling through school with dyslexia, Phil left school with no qualifications and thought his aspirations of working in IT were merely a pipedream. Thirty years later, Phil has worked his way up the career ladder in the IT industry and is now Technical Co-ordinator at iTeach in Cardiff.

“School was hard for me and I was very lucky to come across people who were willing to help me. I remember being terrified but I grew in confidence with ACT.”

Phil completed his NVQ Level 1 in IT, before progressing onto his Level 2, with work placements at various businesses including Arriva Trains. Commenting on his career progression, Phil added, “Where I am today is all down to ACT.”

It is not just learners who benefit from work-based learning, businesses report a boost in productivity, as well as an increase in employee loyalty and retention. Carole Miller from Molson Coors Brewing Company, commented,

“The services ACT provide are fantastic. They know everything about our business and as such tailor their services to suit our needs as a business.”

While reflecting on ACT’s accomplishments, Andrew Cooksley concluded the evening’s celebrations by looking to the future for vocational training commenting:

“Back in 1988, I could not have imagined that we would be where we are today, celebrating our many and vast achievements. It’s essential now that we look to the future, focussing on and supporting vocational training to help fill the ever changing skills gaps in our economy. To not only meet the changing needs of our employers but to ensure we are supporting our learners to really excel and thrive in the workplace and as citizens. We know there will be challenges and opportunities ahead but we are confident by working with Welsh Government and other partners we will be able to continue to make vocational education one of Wales’ success stories.”