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Interactive careers to bridge skills gap in Wales

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Welsh-Government_21THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has this week announced it will be helping to bring two flagship interactive careers and skills events to Wales this year. 

Latest research from the UK Commission’s Employer Skills Survey show that whilst there has been a 14 per cent increase in job vacancies in Wales over the past two years, skills shortages remain a key issue for employers in Wales and the rest of the UK. As part of an ongoing programme of Welsh Government activities designed to inspire Welsh young people and adults about the variety of vocational routes available to them, SkillsCymru 2014 will be held over four days at two venues – Venue Cymru in Llandudno on October 8-9 and Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena on October 22-23 – giving over 10,000 people the opportunity to find out how to gain new skills and train for the future. These events will be part funded by the European Social Fund. Ken Skates, the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, was joined by Welsh star of The Apprentice, Alex Mills, as he made the announcement this morning at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena. “I am thrilled to announce that we will be helping to bring SkillsCymru to Wales. These exciting events will allow thousands of people to learn more about a whole host of careers – from the armed forces to the health service, from IT to the media, from finance to manufacturing – and find out what skills and training they need to get into their chosen field. “I would encourage as many employers as possible to get behind SkillsCymru. By supporting the event, they can be assured that they will be making a real investment into the future of their workforce – attracting the talent they need for their organisation’s future. “The Welsh Government is committed to doing all it can to enhance our nation’s skills by giving as many people as possible access to first-class vocational training and by ensuring they know about all the fantastic learning and skills opportunities that currently exist here in Wales. “By continuing to put on events like this, investing in our flagship programmes such as Apprenticeships and Jobs Growth Wales, and pushing forwards with our Skills Implementation Plan for Wales, we are confident that we can go a long way towards closing the skills gap.” Alex Mills, 23, from Llandough, who lasted 10 weeks on last year’s series of BBC show ‘The Apprentice’, began his working life at 19 and has an impressive business portfolio, ranging from stone masonry to insurance. Commenting on the importance of SkillsCymru, Alex said: “Some people in life are academics and some are ‘hands-on’ learners. I am definitely the latter. I think that the training you get from being in a working environment from a young age is invaluable, particularly as you can earn while you learn. “I don’t think people realise quite how many fantastic opportunities are open to young people here in Wales today. SkillsCymru 2014 will demonstrate the breadth of careers and industries they can choose to go into and highlight the skills that they will need to become successful in whichever one they choose.” Over 25 organisations have already signed up to be a part of SkillsCymru 2014, including NHS Wales, the Royal Air Force, Navy and Marines, McDonalds, Welsh Government (Food and Drink), the ESTnet and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. They will all be offering the chance for visitors to try their hand at a new skill, get first-hand expert careers adviceand explore fresh approaches to education, work, learning, skills and careers. SkillsCymru last took place in 2010 at the Millennium Stadium. Over 20,000 visitors attended, from school children and school leavers to university students and adults looking for a career change, and met with 150 exhibitors and organisations. This year’s events are being organised by Prospects and Cazbah, and supported by the Welsh Government and Careers Wales. Also speaking at this morning’s launch were Ian Menzies, managing director of General Dynamics, Sandra Busby, managing director of the Welsh Contact Centre Forum, and Arwyn Watkins, managing director at Cambrian Training and chief executive officer at National Training Federation for Wales.

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Remembering the collapse of the Cleddau Bridge fifty years on

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TODAY, marks the 50th anniversary of the collapse of the Cleddau Bridge, then called the Milford Haven Bridge, a day that would change bridge building forever.

The construction of the bridge was a staple of a then booming economy, with the original project estimated to be around £2m, but the flawed design caused devastation.

On June 2, 1970, disaster struck the small village of Pembroke Ferry, when a 150 tonne section of the part-built Cleddau Bridge collapsed, killing four men and injuring another 5 people.

At 2.16pm BST, as a section of the bridge was lowered onto the supporting structure below, villagers reported hearing a groaning sound followed by an engulfing cloud of red dust.

The first officer on the scene was dad of two, PC Phil Lloyd, having just clocked into his shift at Pembroke Dock Station when the fire siren sounded.

Recalling the day, Phil, 74 said “I presumed it was just another chimney fire.”

Then at 2.20pm Phil received a call from his mother in law, she lived 30 metres below the bridge.

“When I went into the switchboard the fella said ‘your mother-in-law is on the phone’.”

“She shouted, ‘the bridge has come down!’ and i said ‘don’t be so dull’.”

PC Lloyd’s mother-in-law, Ivy Lewis, lived directly under the bridge, in Pembroke Ferry, on the south side of the river.

With the oil refineries, Milford Haven Port, all being developed in the county, the bridge was a much needed asset, which would give better accessibility and cut down the 20-mile round trip for vehicles.

Arriving at the scene, Phil described it as “utter pandemonium”.

At the time of the collapse, the local gas man was attending Mrs Lewis’ property. She originally assumed that he “had blown the house up”.

It was only when stepping into her garden could she fathom the true cause of the commotion. The whole section of the bridge was resting at a 45-degree angle in her garden.

Astonishly the bridge narrowly missed the below properties. Although it had completely demolished Phil’s aunties coal shed and outdoor toilet.

“Luckily there was a gap between her house and her sister’s house which is where the bridge came down.” Phil said.

“One man had been killed at the scene and two others were taken to hospital but died later. Then when the bridge was lifted, we found another man underneath.”

Construction of the box-section bridge was put on halt immediately.

Within 18 month’s bridges in Germany and Australia, both of the same ill-fated design collapsed with fatal consequences.

The cause of the collapse was later revealed that the diaphragm above the pier of the bridge had not been thick enough and buckled as the 230-foot section was cantilevered out.

Following an inquiry, a number of safety recommendations were made, which included the addition of 500ft of extra steel to strengthen the bridge.

In 1995, on the 25th anniversary of the disaster a memorial plaque to the four men who died, William Baxendale, George Hamilton, James Thompson and local man Evan Phillips.was unveiled.

Unfortunately the plaque was later stolen and has not yet been replaced.

The completed Cleddau Bridge reopened in 1975, making it the largest unsupported span in Europe although costs had escalated to £12m upon completion.

The disaster which shook the small village, laid the foundations for which a new standard was developed in the box girder bridge design.

The Cleddau collapse was regarded as the last major bridge disaster in the UK.

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Health volunteers thanked for incredible support

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THERE’S no more fitting time than National Volunteering Week to say thank you to all of the volunteers within Hywel Dda University Health Board, management have said in a press release.

‘Volunteering for Health’ is the Hywel Dda UHB’s volunteer service and has covered the three counties of Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire for the past 11 years.

During this period, volunteers have carried out 376,000 hours of volunteering and in 2019 carried out 56,000 hours.

At the start of the year prior to COVID, 400 registered volunteers were providing a range of services to support patients and improve their experience whilst in hospitals, these include; library trolley service, shop trolley service, pharmacy runners, meet and greet, patient befrienders, gardeners and many other roles.

Lisa Gostling, Director of Workforce and OD said: “Volunteers are an integral part of our service and it’s hard to think that only seven months ago we celebrated the 10th anniversary of volunteering within Hywel Dda together at Bronwydd Hall.

“It’s important at this moment in time to recognise that some of our long standing volunteers can’t be with us and we look forward to welcoming you back to the organisation soon.

“And also to recognise those volunteers who have changed what they do to support our patients during these particularly difficult times.

“So I want to just say thank you. Thank you for your commitment, your generosity and your kindness. I look forward to seeing you all soon. Take care and stay safe.”

David Fretwell. Volunteering for Health Manager, added his thanks for the overwhelming response from volunteers old and new to an unprecedented situation: “This year has been unprecedented for the volunteer service with the onset of the COVID pandemic and has dramatically affected the way we have involved volunteers.

“We had an amazing response from the community wishing to help us through volunteering with over 600 offers of support.

“To help manage the numbers of people offering to help we set up a ‘Volunteer Pool’ and are extremely mindful where we can place volunteers for their safety.

“We have now deployed volunteers to support the health board’s transport department as drivers; we also have gardeners, virtual volunteers and drivers delivering food parcels from food banks to some of our most vulnerable patients in the community.

“We appreciate the fantastic support you have provided prior to COVID and through the pandemic. Thank you for your incredible support.”

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Inflatable kayak group rescued by the Coastguard

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A GROUP of people in an inflatable kayak had to be rescued by the Coastguard on Saturday (May 30) evening.

HM Coastguard Dale said they were “very lucky people”.

They had been exploring to the north of Skomer Island when they got caught in the tidal race of Jack Sound and ended up off Gateholm.

A passing Dale sailing vessel helped them to the Little and Broad Haven Lifeboat team before they were transferred to Angle RNLI to navigate Jack Sound.

The casualties were received by HM Coastguard Dale at Martin’s Haven and given safety advice.

The group had no lifejackets on and were not wearing wetsuits, despite the cold water.

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