Centre gets formula right

27th January 2006 at 00:00
A work-based learning centre run by a former apprentice carpenter has received rare praise from chief inspector of schools, Susan Lewis, for improved standards.

The head of inspection body Estyn used Swansea Employment Training (SET) to launch her annual report for 2004-5.

Ms Lewis has been scathing about the performance of work-based training providers in Wales (TESCymru, January 20). However, she singled out SET for raising its game to meet the demands of vocational education.

In 2000-1, the training provider received a "could-do-better" report from Estyn. But in its latest inspection in February last year, both staff and trainees were praised for mutual respect, good standards of teaching and, above all, dedication.

The number of trainees leaving SET with qualifications has increased by 36 per cent over the last two years. Of an annual intake of 3,500 SET trainees, aged 14 to 64, an enviable 67 per cent leave with an NVQ or individual training plan in anything from IT to hairdressing.

The centre, headed by Steve Harris with 130 staff, is funded by the local authority, post-16 education funding agency ELWa, Job Centre Plus and the EU.

He said: "We're a one-stop shop which gives everyone the opportunity to learn. It doesn't matter what people want to do - we will seek an employment sponsor and organise the training for them."

Mr Harris said an open-door policy in SET, which included welcoming young offenders, had helped the centre's success.

He said: "We have no problem attracting young people here but we always need employers. The key to getting trainees to succeed is in the infrastructure. We have the support here to do that."

Trainee Peter Hodges, 18, hopes to complete an 18-month NVQ in IT after just six months.

He said: "I moved to Swansea from London a year ago and didn't know what to do. Now I'm getting paid to do something I really enjoy, and my support tutor is just a walk away at the end of the corridor."

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