Zoe Goodall from ACT Training

To support International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, an organisation that represents training providers across Wales is to host three discussions during the month focused on achieving gender balance and diversity in apprenticeships.

The National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) discussions will focus on finding sustainable solutions to address gender imbalance in apprenticeship opportunities in sectors including construction and engineering.

The Welsh Government has tasked the NTfW with providing more apprenticeship opportunities for females in male dominated sectors and males in female dominated sectors.

The global #IWD2022, which has #BreakTheBias as its theme, celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and calls for gender parity.

The #BreakTheBias campaign asks individuals to call out gender, stereotypes and discrimination to create a gender equal world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.

The first of the NTfW discussions, ‘Achieving Gender Balance in Apprenticeships’, will be held on March 24. Key topics will be delivering an inclusive apprenticeship programme informed by data, increasing participation and support from employers, learning from apprentices and breaking the bias with employers, learning providers, peers and family.

Inspirational women speakers include former apprentice Charlie Hargreaves of Wates Construction and Catrin Atkins, co-founder of Women in Tech Cymru who will share valuable insights on their routes into construction and technology industries.

The other round table discussions will be ‘Increasing participation of disabled people in apprenticeships’ on March 28 and ‘Increasing participation of ethnic minority communities in apprenticeships’ on March 30.

The discussions, which are for invitees only, are being organised by Humie Webbe, the NTfW’s organisation’s strategic equality and diversity lead, who may be contacted at humie.webbe .

“International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to recognise female apprentices and celebrate their achievements,” said Humie. “This year’s theme #BreaktheBias spotlights the need for targeted support to enable females to succeed in their chosen careers, in particular in male-dominated industries such as construction and engineering.

“As we strive to address the gender imbalance in construction and engineering apprenticeship sectors, where there is under-representation of females, we want to work with employers to highlight their good practice and to encourage women and young girls to enter the industry.

“Changing people’s perception, attitudes and behaviour is a long-term investment. Having targeted discussions is a good way of looking at what is needed for females and males to enter into areas where they are not represented.”

The four main contract holders, who deliver apprenticeships and other learning programmes for the Welsh Government, have come together under the NTfW banner on #IWD2022 to highlight successful women within their companies.

Zoe Goodall, delivery director for ACT Training, based in Cardiff, has progressed from a trainee assessor in 2005 to a director responsible for delivery across all the company’s learning programmes.

With a strong focus on wellbeing and happiness, Zoe has spearheaded the development and growth of provision across ACT, which was named UK Employer of the Year: Platinum (250+) at the Investors in People Awards 2021.

Reflecting on her career so far, Zoe said, “I am incredibly proud to have been a part of ACT’s success story and the journey it has taken to get here. Since I joined 17 years ago, I have watched ACT grow and develop tremendously from less than 100 staff to now employing almost 400 hugely talented people.

“I am a living example of how apprenticeships and work based learning can provide fantastic career opportunities and act as a springboard to enormous success.” ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Amanda Williams, Head of Contract and Partnership Management at ITEC Skills and Employment based in Cardiff, has climbed the promotion ladder from a six week administrative job in 1994 to her current role 28 years later.

Thriving as a manager, she won a National Training Award for her management of the Gateway to Work programme. She has been a contracts manager, business manager and managed the Welsh Government’s Traineeships and Employability Skills programmes for the company before managing the apprenticeship supply chain throughout South East, West and Mid Wales.

Having achieved an NVQ in Team Leading and a Management to Leadership qualification to support her career progression, Amanda said: “Believing in others is just as important as believing in yourself.

“A manager believed in me, which has enabled me to believe in others, to inspire and empower individuals to achieve their aspirations. Your full potential is unlimited, as each day you continue to grow and improve not just your own life but those around you too.”

Ann Nicholas, customer account director at Caerphilly-based Educ8 Training, has more than 16 years’ experience in training and education and was the first person in her family to go to university.

An ambassador for lifelong learning, she is passionate about apprenticeships and quality teaching and learning. She and her five fellow directors have driven the business to become the Best Mid-Sized Company to Work For 2021, Best Education and Training Provider to Work For 2021 and FSB Employer of the Year. The Fast Growth 50 company has also achieved IIP Platinum status.

Ann joined Educ8 as a senior account manager in 2017 and returned to the company in her current role in 2020 from Transport for Wales where she was head of recruitment.

“Working in collaboration with the board of directors, we share ideas, support each other’s challenges and successes and align our goals to ensure we are supporting each other to grow, improve and reach personal or professional milestones,” she said.

“We have built a company based on values and ethos. Our staff are at the heart of the business and we have a great reputation for tailored, quality provision. As a result, the business is rapidly expanding.”

Catherine Watkin, finance officer at Welshpool-based Cambrian Training Company, is a key member of staff, supporting the finance director and being a point of contact for Welsh language queries within the company.

Since joining the company on the Jobs Growth Wales programme 10 years ago, she has achieved five apprenticeships, most recently Customer Service and Management at Level 3.

“I am so proud of what I have achieved at Cambrian Training, none of which would have been possible without the start I was given through Jobs Growth Wales,” said Cath. “I have been supported by the company to continue learning via a range of apprenticeships.

“Ten years really have flown by and I am looking forward to what the next 10 years brings. The company has evolved over my time and I am proud to be a part of the forever changing and growing company.”