Charlotte O'Brien

Vocational Training route leads to award success

For VQ Award winner, Charlotte O’Brien, vocational learning has enabled her to make a career out of her passion for maths and economics.

Charlotte’s efforts have been recognised by being named VQ Higher Learner of the Year at the Vocational Qualifications (VQ) Awards 2019.

Charlotte received the prestigious award at a ceremony held at the National Museum in Cardiff on May 15. Now in their 12th year, the coveted VQ Awards celebrate those who use technical, practical and vocational qualifications to achieve success.

The award is a symbol of dedication towards a chosen profession. The awards help to celebrate those Welsh learners, trainers and employers who are already going that extra mile when it comes to developing vocational skills and qualifications.

Charlotte started her career in the Data Science Campus at the Office for National Statistics in Newport and the completion of a Level 4 Data Analysis Higher Apprenticeship six months ahead of target was recognised by the ONS who rewarded her with a permanent position.

A six-month temporary promotion to Senior Executive Officer with ONS has already followed and Charlotte now works as part of a team within GNI Methods and Research. This involves improving the compilation of National Accounts, a top priority of Economic Statistics Group in the coming year.

Her passion for maths and economics led her to university but she quickly decided that vocational study under the guidance of Cardiff-based ALS Training was better suited to her learning needs and she has not looked back.

Charlotte now helps present Analysing and Presenting Data training courses to ONS staff, helping raise standards within the organisation. She has also become a STEM ambassador for ONS which involves visiting local schools and colleges to share her vocational journey.

Her own learning path has taken her on to a second year in an Open University degree in Maths and Economics and hopefully a place on the inaugural Degree Apprenticeship in Applied Data Science later this year.

Said Charlotte: “I am so surprised I have won this award. I joined ONS to try and get back into the maths and economics field and do something that I loved. I thought leaving my degree would mean that I would never get into that field but doing my apprenticeship meant that I could – and this award proves that I can.”

Winning the VQ Award she hopes will help her future career and further her qualifications, said Charlotte: “I want to enrol on a level 6 in September so I hope winning this award means I’m a worthy candidate of joining!”

Data Science Campus Academic Manager at ONS, Alison Adams said of Charlotte: “Her journey through the apprenticeship to gaining a permanent promotion with ONS has been inspirational. Charlotte is focused and driven with clear career goals. She radiates positivity and has a zest for life.”

Charlotte said: “The Apprenticeship has been a platform on which to grow and add valuable analytical skills to ONS as well as the wider community.”

Richard Bassett, Programme Design and Delivery Manager at ALS Training, said: “Charlotte is the pinnacle of what is possible through vocational learning. She has grabbed all learning opportunities presented to her with both hands, using it to demonstrate her considerable worth to the ONS. Promoted twice within the space of a year, she is responsible for aspects of some of the most important statistics produced for the UK government.”

Runners up in the VQ Learner of the Year – Higher category were Jonathan Thomas, DAS Legal Expenses Insurance Co Ltd, whose learning provider is ALS Training, Caerphilly; and Reagan Locke, Tata Steel, Port Talbot whose learning provider is Gower College Swansea.

There are four award categories – VQ Intermediate Learner of the Year, VQ Higher Learner of the Year, VQ Trainer of the Year and VQ Employer of the Year – which encompass the spectrum of learning, training and employment.

The award ceremony coincided with VQ Day – which celebrates vocational achievement and the benefits of technical, practical and vocational learning to both the individual and the Welsh economy.

Minister for Education Kirsty Williams said:

”Work-based skills are more important than ever, equipping learners with the skills and experience they and their employers need within the modern workforce.

“The awards set the gold standard for Vocational Qualifications in Wales and reward our outstanding learners, businesses that are committed to developing their staff and trainers who work with passion and always go the extra mile.

“Each of the finalists and winners should be extremely proud and I would like to congratulate them all on their achievements.”

The VQ Awards are jointly organised by the Welsh Government, the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), ColegauCymru/CollegesWales, Qualifications Wales and the Education Workforce Council. The Welsh Government’s funding has support from the European Social Fund.

Picture caption: VQ Higher Learner of the Year Award winner, Charlotte O’Brien.

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