A North Wales recycling company has completed a hat-trick of awards in less than a year for its focus on vocational qualifications to grow its successful business.
Thorncliffe, which has waste and recycling sites in Mold and Abergele, was named Vocational Qualification (VQ) Employer of the Year at the annual VQ Awards ceremony held at St David’s Hotel and Spa, Cardiff on Tuesday night, the eve of VQ Day.
The awards are organised by the Welsh Government, the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) and ColegauCymru / CollegesWales.
Thorncliffe, a double winner at last year’s Apprenticeship Awards Cymru, was represented at the awards by apprentices Michael James, 20, and Rob Moore, 19. “It’s huge achievement for the company especially when you consider this is a national award,” said Michael. “Hopefully, it will encourage other companies across Wales to get involved in vocational qualifcations.”
Rob said: “Thorncliffe is an excellent company to work for and we have both had a lot of opportunities since we have been there.”
To achieve its business goals, Thorncliffe launched an Apprenticeship programme, working closely with Cambrian Training Company, four years ago and it now has 12 apprentices. The business identified the need to upskill its workforce of 98 after investing in cutting edge equipment, including a new refuse derived fuel processing plant, which bales waste.
A total of 34 qualifications, ranging from Foundation Apprenticeships in Sustainable Resource Management to a level four Higher Apprenticeship in Systems and Operations, have been achieved with another 12 in progress.
Working with the Probation Service, Thorncliffe provides employment and training opportunities to ex-offenders as part of the “8 ways to change your life” programme, which won an Inspire! Award for best project for its positive community impact. Ex-offenders are initially offered work experience which progresses to a job with training if they prove themselves. To date, three ex-offenders have undertaken Apprenticeships with the company.
“We have found that offering vocational qualifications to staff has helped foster a desire to keep learning, makes them feel valued and improves productivity,” said Daniel Harper, manager of the Mold recycling site. “We recognised that we needed a highly trained and motivated workforce and that attitudes needed to change from waste being an unpleasant job to a new science where it is a resource for our futures.
“We think staff gaining an understanding of recycling targets and emerging technology is vital to our ongoing success.”
The company’s two sites are each saving 30,000 tonnes of waste a year from land and its ambition is to recycle all waste.
Heather Martin from Cambrian Training Company said: “This award is recognition of the company’s commitment to vocational qualifications and growing its own staff.”
Thorncliffe was one of three businesses shortlisted for the VQ Employer of the Year Award, which celebrates employers that invest in vocational learning to drive up workforce skills and increase productivity and competitiveness.
Minister of Skills and Science Julie James congratulated the 10 finalists and praised everyone who had been nominated for the VQ Awards this year. “Vocational skills have a huge impact on the Welsh economy and we value the gold standard of vocational learning being delivered to people right across Wales,” she said.
“Both VQ Day and the VQ Awards provide the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate not only the high standard of technical, practical and vocational learning being delivered in Wales, but also the many personal successes and achievements of our learners.
“High quality VQs are essential to provide individuals and businesses with the skills, experience, motivation and inspiration they need to get ahead. Ultimately it is only with appropriately skilled and trained people that we can drive forward the Welsh economy.
“Many of our VQ Award finalists this year have demonstrated that they are marked out as future leaders or ambitious entrepreneurs and have an eye on making sound business decisions and increasing productivity.”
Now in their ninth year, the awards coincided with VQ Day on June 8, a celebration of the benefits and value of high quality technical, practical and vocational learning to individuals and to the economy. There were also awards for VQ Learner of the Year Higher Level and VQ Learner of the Year Intermediate Level.
Apprentices Michael James and Rob Moore from VQ Employer of the Year Thorncliffe from with Judith Evans, CollegesWales chair, Sarah John, NTfW interim chair, Huw Morris, the Welsh Government’s director of skills, higher education and lifelong learning and compere Sian Lloyd.