The cream of the crop have been recognised during this year’s celebration of vocational qualifications excellence at the Vocational Qualifications Awards 2019.

The VQ Learner of the Year – Higher Award went to Charlotte O’Brien, who works at the Office for National Statistics in Newport .

Charlotte started her career in the Data Science Campus at the ONS and the completion of a Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship six months ahead of target was recognised by the ONS which rewarded her with a permanent position.

Her passion for maths and economics led her to university, but she quickly decided that vocational study under the guidance of Cardiff-based ALS Training was better suited to her learning needs and she has not looked back. Charlotte now helps present training courses to ONS staff and has become a STEM Ambassador for ONS.

Her own learning path has taken her on a second year Open University degree in Maths and Economics and hopefully a place on the inaugural Degree Apprenticeship in Applied Data Science later this year.

Data Science Campus ONS, academic manager Alison Adams said: "Charlotte's journey through the apprenticeship to gaining a permanent position with ONS has been inspirational. Charlotte is focused and driven with clear career goals. She radiates positivity and has a zest for life.”

Jonathan Thomas, of DAS Legal Expenses Insurance Co Ltd, Caerphilly, was a runner up in this category.

Now in their 12th year, the VQ Awards celebrate those who use technical, practical and vocational qualifications to achieve success. The award is a symbol of dedication towards a chosen profession. The awards help to celebrate those Welsh learners, trainers and employers who are already going that extra mile when it comes to developing vocational skills and qualifications.

A dozen finalists were shortlisted in the four VQ Award categories.

Minister for Education Kirsty Williams said: "Work-based skills are more important than ever, equipping learners with the skills and experience they and their employers need within the modern workforce.

“The awards set the gold standard for vocational qualifications in Wales and reward our outstanding learners, businesses that are committed to developing their staff and trainers who work with passion and always go the extra mile.

“Each of the finalists and winners should be extremely proud and I would like to congratulate them all on their achievements.”

The awards are jointly organised by the Welsh Government, the National Training Federation for Wales, ColegauCymru/CollegesWales, Qualifications Wales and the Education Workforce Council. The Welsh Government’s funding has support from the European Social Fund.