A gas explosion survivor who has become an inspirational preschool leader was one of the winners at the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2024 awards ceremony last night (Friday).

Nine outstanding winners from across Wales, in categories for apprentices, employers and work-based learning practitioners, received the coveted awards as stars of the Welsh Government’s apprenticeship programme shone at the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales), Newport.

The awards are organised by the Welsh Government and supported by the National Training Federation for Wales (NTFW) and headline sponsor is EAL, the awarding body.

One of the loudest cheers of the night was reserved for inspirational Jessica Williams, 34, a preschool leader at Ser Bach y Cwm, Ystradgynlais, who was named Higher Apprentice of the Year.

Jessica has fought back from life changing injuries, caused by a freak gas explosion that flattened her Seven Sisters home in 2020, to build a successful career.

The mother-of-two says the traumatic experience has changed her life and credits her Higher Apprenticeship (Level 5) in Children’s Care, Learning and Development, Leadership and Management, delivered by ACT Training, as giving her the encouragement to flourish.

“I have gone from being critically ill and fighting for my life to becoming a successful preschool leader,” said Jessica.

“My journey has not been an easy one, but it has been incredible.”

Christine Bissex-Foster, Chair of the Judging Panel, said: “With over 180 applications received for this year's Apprenticeship Awards Cymru, it's humbling to see that learners, employers, and work-based learning practitioners across Wales are continuing to excel in the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship Programme.

“This year's applications are a reflection of the extraordinary potential in Wales; they are of a very high standard. The winners and finalists have established a new benchmark for vocational education in Wales, and I want to offer my heartfelt congratulations to everyone involved. I would also like to extend my thanks to the dedicated judging panel who give their time and expertise every year.”