The Inspire Wales Awards are an initiative of the Institute of Welsh Affairs in association with the Western Mail.
Inspirational people from all walks of life are being honoured in the second annual Inspire Wales Awards. The awards – a partnership between the Western Mail and the Institute of Welsh Affairs – recognise the contribution of those in the fields of business, education, science and technology, arts and media, the environment and sport. They also aim to mark the work of young achievers, those who promote Wales to the world and the Welsh language in the workplace, as well as champions of citizenship. Today, we reveal the finalists in the Welsh at Work (large) category.
Carmarthen County Council
With over half of homeowners in Carmarthen county speaking Welsh, a high percentage of Welsh speakers working for the council, and many councillors keen to work bilingually, the local authority has made using Welsh a priority. The council made a commitment to increasing its bilingual workforce in its 2002 Language Plan. For years the council has been offering a bilingual service. All contact centre staff speak Welsh and employees wear “Happy to speak Welsh” badges from the Welsh Language Board. The council’s Language Skills Strategy shows its commitment to increasing the number of staff who speak Welsh, and it provides courses for those wishing to brush-up on their Welsh. The local authority is also working on a number of online modules in the coming year.
With a Welsh-language marketing strategy, a dedicated Welsh call centre and a strengthened relationship with Welsh-language champions, NatWest has done more than most to promote the language. The bank – based in Cardiff – has united two separate North and South divisions, using Welsh as a common bond. The 120-branch company, that employs around 1,100 people, has had a long history with Welsh, having first introduced a Welsh language policy in 2002, and has had a bilingual call centre since 1994, but enhanced its offering in 2009 with the appointment of Mark Douglas as regional director. As de-facto Welsh-language ambassador, a learner himself, he developed a relationship with the Welsh Language Board for the company which has led to it being identified as an example of best practice. His work in motivating fellow staff learners has led to 22% of the workforce being able to speak Welsh, the introduction of a truly bilingual work and customer environment – leading to fielding 10,000 Welsh calls in the third quarter of 2010 alone.
Mid and West Fire and Rescue Service (Julie Owens)
Mid and West Fire and Rescue Service has made Welsh a core of its approach to engaging with its staff and with the local communities it serves. As well as appointing a Welsh Language Officer in Julie Owens, it has cultivated a supportive institutional culture for Welsh speaking employees, including Welsh-language training, “Working Welsh” badges to identify Welsh-speaking employees and the issuing of a bilingual staff magazine, Calon Tan. It also provides Welsh Language Advocates, including the deputy chief fire officer, from within the organisation, which meet on a quarterly basis on a Welsh Language Forum to monitor implementation. Ms Owens has also championed the Welsh in the Workplace campaign, and incentives for employees to learn Welsh, including pioneering in-house Welsh classes – and the Service has also funded Welsh learners at home, financing materials and introducing a Welsh Learner of the Year award. It has also reached out to the public it serves by providing fire safety inspections, educational talks and materials through Welsh.