A WALES rugby hero from Pontypridd has been championing vocational qualifications by getting plastered at a construction training centre.

Wales and Cardiff Blues flanker Martyn Williams tried his hand at a number of skills - including plastering, bricklaying, and car mechanics - at training provider ACT's state-of-the-art Skills Academy on Hadfield Road, Cardiff.

ACT, Wales' largest work-based learning provider, delivers vocational training to around 3,500 learners every year.

Martyn was born in Pontypridd and played club rugby for his home town, with whom he won the 1996-7 Welsh league, then moved to Cardiff in 1999. He captained Cardiff from 2002 until 2005, when Rhys Williams took over the role.

Martyn's endeavours are part of the UK-wide awareness day, Vocational Qualifications (VQ) Day, which aims to recognise the thousands of people who gain vocational qualifications every year.

Martyn said: "I think vocational qualifications are great as they give people the chance to train for specific skills which can lead to great jobs. It was great to see how plastering and bricklaying is done at Skills Academy. I can safely say neither skill is easy!"

Martyn was invited to ACT Skills Academy as part of the company's own celebration of VQ Day. The company, headed by managing director Andrew Cooksley, decided to host the event at the brand new construction training centre to reward students for their hard work and achievements.

Mr Cooksley said: "Vocational qualifications have for so long been regarded as the poor relation of GCSEs, A levels and other academic accreditations. VQ Day is a fantastic way of alerting people to the fact that vocational qualifications, including NVQs, BTECs and modern apprenticeships, are extremely viable and educational routes and can lead to very rewarding careers.