No shortage of inspiration in Wales

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Jonathan Brooks-Jones reveals the finalists of the third annual Inspire Wales Awards

The third annual Inspire Wales Awards saw an increase in entries of 10 per cent. This shows that despite the current economic climate, there is no shortage of inspirational individuals and organisations in Wales. Among those shortlisted is Robert Evans, who has developed an innovative method of identifying a learner’s strengths and weaknesses and focus support where needed. Another finalist is Keith Cass, who after being diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer, set up the Red Sock Campaign which offers counselling for anyone with prostate cancer.

The Inspire Wales Awards, an IWA initiative in partnership with the Western Mail, reward the unsung heroes making a difference in Welsh civic life. They celebrate the achievements of men and women throughout Wales in the fields of business, education, science, arts and media, the environment and sport, as well as seeking champions in corporate social responsibility, citizenship and young achievers. This was the third year of the awards and this year’s achievers demonstrated yet again a remarkable set of contributions that are being made to Welsh civic life. In this profile, we reveal the finalists of each category (continued on page two, here). 

Business Leader – Sponsored by Leadership & Management Wales

Rachael Wheatley

The director and founder of Swansea-based design, creative and marketing studio Waters Creative has a simple mantra: “Our clients’ success is our success.”

It is an attitude that has seen the firm increase turnover from £576,991 in 2009/10 with five staff serving 150 customers to a projected turnover of £675,000 in 2011/12, with 12 staff working to provide dedicated professional support to more than 400 customers from a variety of industry sectors.

The firm has also achieved a 100% retention rate of all staff and Waters Creative is now one of the largest and fastest-growing creative design studios in the region, with a client base expanding along the M4 corridor and up to and including Oxford, Reading and Manchester.

Rachel Fleri

Since the inception of Specialist Security Co in 2001 Ms Fleri has been managing director and the sole director of the firm and prevailed over its growth to its current stature.

The business now employs more than 90 uniformed guards as well as five full-time office staff, while other administrative services are subcontracted to local companies and has a projected turnover of £1.8m.

Many of the guards are ethnic minority workers with English as a second language, while others have few formal qualifications and limited qualifications. As a result the firm has signed up to Essential Skills Wales and signed the employers pledge to upskill the basic communication, numeracy and IT skills of the workforce.

Educator – Sponsored by Cardiff University

Professor Peter Edwards

In less than two decades at Cardiff University’s School of Chemistry, Prof Edwards has published more than 100 research papers and attracted in excess of £5m of external research and infrastructure funding.

He is the co-inventor of Myoview, one of the world’s two proprietary clinical heart imaging agents, which currently accounts for 40% of the global market for diagnostic heart imaging.

Prof Edwards has been the driving force behind three major programmes aimed at making science accessible to young people.

The three initiatives – Uncovering Chemical Secrets, Chemistry Captured and Chemistry in a Van – have allowed pupils, and particularly A level students, to access resources, expertise and shows they may not otherwise have seen.

More than 6,000 pupils throughout Wales, England and Northern Ireland – as well as Cyprus and Europe – have benefited from the schemes.

Robert Evans

An innovative initiative to risk-assess learners at the point they begin studying at Bridgend College and measure their progress by the end of their course was launched as a pilot scheme by Mr Evans in 2007.

Only five years later the BRAVO scheme – Bridgend Risk Assessment and Value-added Outcomes – has been implemented on more than 100 courses, with in excess of 2,500 learners involved.

Mr Evans, assistant principal at Bridgend College, introduced the programme to quantify the value added on both graded and non-graded courses.

When learners are risk-assessed they are placed in one of five categories of risk and an electronic individual learning plan is produced.

The approach seeks to identify individual strengths and weaknesses in learners and focus support where it is best needed.

Science & Technology – Sponsored by Western Power Distribution

Dr George Edward Johnson

A proactive genetic scientist with a keen interest in cancer research, Dr Johnson believes prevention is the best cure.

His pioneering research and teaching as a lecturer in genetics at Swansea University has seen him address conferences and seminars worldwide – often being the only person under the age of 50 to be invited to speak at prestigious international conferences.

Dr Johnson’s work and teaching on genetic toxicology has seen him introduce external lecturers from industry in to modules to speak to students, while he has also run an industrial placement scheme for students since 2009.

Andy Jones

Since he visited the nuclear reactors where his aunt worked as a child, Mr Jones has known he wanted to work in science and engineering.

A 44-year career in the field has seen him become the co-inventor of three patents, run his own business and author and co-author numerous technical papers and reports.

Now, as a partnerships coordinator at Techniquest Glyndwr, Mr Jones works with industrial and science and engineering partners and organisations to inspire pupils and students from Key Stage Two through to degree level.

Environment – Sponsored by First Great Western

Dr Paul Benham

A leading visionary and pioneering figure, Dr Benham’s role as a holistic farmer in Powys has seen him develop an ecological food production system that is high in yield yet with a low carbon footprint.

His aim was to provide a flagship model for creating future food security in a sustainable way, and with particular relevance to urban populations, and his success has been recognised with 12 awards in just three years at the Wales the True Taste Food and Drink Awards.

He also set up the Primrose Earth Awareness Trust in 2000 – initially working voluntarily for a year –  to educate children and visitors on the way food is grown and caring for the environment.

Ellen Petts

An ambitious social enterprise that aims to reduce the volume of carpet tiles going to landfill has seen Ms Petts nominated in this category.

She co-founded the initiative to see the tiles reused and the creation of the project in turn provides training and employment opportunities as well as providing flooring to members of the community who otherwise would not be able to afford it.

Over the last three years Ms Petts, managing director of Cleanstream Carpets, has developed trading income from recycling and re-selling carpet tiles to the extent that she has diverted 200 tonnes of tiles from landfill since 2009, selling more than 250,000 square metres of otherwise landfilled or burned carpets to small businesses and low-income families.

Welsh at Work (smaller organisation) – Sponsored by CADcentre

Elfen

Award-winning design and branding company Elfen says bilingualism has been integral to its growth and will be a key element of its success in the future.

The Cardiff-based company was established by Welsh-speakers Gwion Prydderch and Guto Evans in 1998.

Mr Prydderch said: “As well as the achievement of developing one of the most successful design companies in Europe, the company saw early on that offering a totally bilingual service would give an obvious competitive advantage in terms of keeping existing customers and attracting new ones.”

Stiwdiobox

Stiwdiobox bills itself as a unique venture that uses a mobile sound studio to offer Welsh students the chance to learn key language and technical skills.

As well as visiting schools, the company also offers the chance for commercial premises to hire sound systems and technical equipment.

Marc Griffiths, the broadcaster who runs the enterprise, said: “Already, nearly 20 schools across Wales are producing Welsh radio shows which are broadcast in the lunch hour.

“This is an effective way of fostering pupils’ confidence in broadcast skills, technical knowledge and verbal skills.”

Welsh at Work (large organisation) – Sponsored by CADcentre

Care Council for Wales

Established in 2001, the Care Council has from the outset been keen to make the use of Welsh as an integral part of the organisation’s ethos.

As a publicly funded body, it has adopted the principle that Welsh and English is treated equally, as part of developing an effective public service in Wales.

More than 56% of its 87 staff describe themselves as fully bilingual, eight have completed a beginners’ course, two an intermediate course and four an improvers’ course.

More recently, the Care Council has widened its bilingual policy to social and digital media, having introduced Twitter accounts in Welsh and English and produced a Facebook page on careers in social care.

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service

With its operations area covering key Welsh-language heartlands, the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service says the language issue is vital to its success.

It has recently implemented a successful Welsh language learning CD programme, as well as the use of “Welsh Champions” to mentor staff, and a fully bilingual intranet.

Meanwhile, home fire safety checks carried out through the medium of Welsh have risen from 686 in first four months of 2010 to 1,439 in the equivalent period of 2011.

Tracey Williams, corporate communications manager, said: “Our aim is to cultivate a service which is completely in tune with its Welsh public and demonstrates a courtesy and empathy towards the language and culture of Wales.”

Read about the finalists in the other categories here.

Jonathan Brooks-Jones is sub-editor for ClickonWales.org

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