Launching a new business at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic has turned out to be an industry-leading decision for a Carmarthen-based daycare provider.
As the world wrestled with lockdowns and restrictions, Rebecca Davies launched Willow Daycare on the grounds of Glangwili General Hospital, recognising that there was a desperate shortage of childcare support, particularly for the NHS staff.
After beginning with a strong onus on training staff through apprenticeships, the business has enjoyed a staggering 1,600% increase in children attending, from seven at inception to 130 a year later and a staff of 20.
Now the nursery has been shortlisted for the Small and Medium Employer of the Year Award at the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2022. The winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on November 10.
The awards highlight the outstanding achievements, during unprecedented times, of employers, apprentices and work-based learning practitioners.
Highlight of the year for apprentices, employers and work-based learning providers and practitioners, the awards are organised by the Welsh Government and supported by the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW). Headline sponsor for the third year is Openreach.
Putting children at the heart of Willow Daycare
“Willow Daycare is a family-run business that puts children at the heart of our care,” said Rebecca, who believes in sparking inspiration and curiosity through work-based learning to provide unrivalled job satisfaction.
“It’s a deeply satisfying living culture of learning. They build on my teaching with academia, like our apprenticeships and training programmes. I can only think this approach has contributed to our success because the children delight in the environment.”
Rebecca’s team has grown to 20 members of staff, all of whom are encouraged to embrace education and, where possible, incorporate the Welsh language into their workplace.
She believes that empowering and educating her employees will benefit a sector that is struggling with staff shortages across Wales.
“Education gives my people the chance to fly high in their careers,” she said. “If I can retain my team of 20 in the sector, they will go on to enrich the lives of children in the wider community for many years to come and raise the standard of childcare in Carmarthen and Wales.”
Willow Daycare offers Apprenticeships from Levels 2 to 5 in Children’s Care, Play, Learning and Development as well as Level 3 Playwork, delivered in co-ordination with TSW Training, who said that in its first year the company had become “an established, trusted and celebrated setting”.
“Rebecca is dedicated to creating opportunities for all, which is why the apprenticeship programme has embedded perfectly into the setting, and why its apprentices are flourishing,” said a spokesperson from TSW Training.
“She creates placements for students, education opportunities for employees, work/life balance for parents and, most importantly, happiness, fulfilment and comforting, homely care for the children.”
Creating opportunities for the future
Congratulating Willow Daycare and all the other shortlisted finalists, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “Apprenticeships make a huge contribution to our economy and will be crucial as Wales continues to bounce back from the pandemic.
“They can help futureproof, motivate and diversify a workforce, offering people the chance to gain high-quality vocational skills.
“As part of our Young Person’s Guarantee, the Welsh Government will be investing £366 million over the next three years to deliver 125,000 all-age apprenticeships across Wales during the current term of government.
“We want to increase opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to develop transferable skills in the workplace and improve their lives. The investment will also help tackle skills shortages and gaps in priority sectors critical to drive productivity and economic growth, supporting our net zero ambitions, the every-day foundational economy and public services.”