From education to employment

Awards celebration for Apprenticeships

This week the National Apprenticeship Awards took place and, I’m pleased to say, they have shown that Apprenticeships continue to be a huge success across the country. The Awards gave everyone involved in Apprenticeship programmes the chance to reflect on, and celebrate, the outstanding achievements of apprentices and their employers over the past year. In doing so, the Awards highlight Apprenticeships – their benefits and breadth – to a wide audience.

It was an absolute pleasure to hear the stories of the winners. Companies like Sheffield Forgemasters in South Yorkshire that won the Large Employer of the Year category, deserve to be highlighted as an inspiration to all businesses looking to grow in today’s challenging business environment. Its apprentices account for nearly 10% of its workforce. The engineering company prides itself on putting crucial skills back into the British steel and manufacturing industries and building an expert workforce for the future through its outstanding Apprenticeship programme.

It was a double celebration for twenty year old apprentice Joe Price after he not only picked up the title for Advanced Apprenticeship of the Year, but also secured a place to represent the UK at WorldSkills London 2011.

Joe, who has just completed an Advanced Level Apprenticeship with his employer JR Slee Building & Joinery Contractors Ltd in Shropshire, will now join thousands of young people, from all over the world, to compete in the world’s largest skills competition. The event which is taking place at ExCel London from 5 – 8 October will see Joe strive to be the best of the best in his chosen skill and I wish him the best of luck.

Other winners included Intermediate Level Apprentice of the Year Shauni O’Neil from London Underground who acts as an Ambassador for her company’s Apprenticeship programme.

Syeda Afsana Islam was awarded Young Apprentice of the Year and Higher Apprentice of the Year went to Shane Allum who works within the BT Operate Service Assurance team.

Employer awards included BAE systems who picked up Macro Employer of the Year, Fish and Chips at 149 who received the title Small Employer of the Year.

Medium Employer of the Year went to electrical company Clarkson Evans who recruit around 40 young people annually to begin training as electricians. This organisation is a shining example of where Apprenticeships lie at the very heart of the company and they’ve even established their own training centre for apprentices.

These companies have been recognised in the first ever Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers list, supported by City & Guilds – the UK’s leading vocational education organisation.

The Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers is an exciting new initiative to recognise excellence in businesses that employ Apprenticeships and consists of the very best employers who entered the National Apprenticeship Awards 2011 employer categories .By celebrating their outstanding achievements, with City & Guilds we hope to raise the profile of Apprenticeships and promote their benefits to learners and employers alike.

The annual Awards continue to prove to be immensely popular with the country’s apprentices and apprentice employers and received a record number of applications with over 1,600 entries – an increase of over 25% on last year’s awards. The calibre of the nominees was extremely strong which made it very challenging to choose the winners. This is testament to the talents of our apprentices, and the dedication of their employers. I am proud to support these Awards.

While it has been encouraging to see how many employers and young people are already engaged with Apprenticeships there is still plenty of room for growth, and we want to see an increase in the apprentice workforce across all industry sectors in the coming year and even more nominations when the Apprenticeship Awards 2012 come around. Demand for Apprenticeships continues to outstrip the number of opportunities available so we always need more businesses to get involved.

NAS is on hand to guide any employer through the process of taking on an apprentice including access to our online recruitment service that can help you identify suitable candidates.

Apprenticeships offer a huge range of benefits both for individuals who are looking to develop their skills and for employers looking to build a high quality workforce. The employers I speak to always praise the attributes of apprentices in their businesses. As enthusiastic and keen learners, apprentices offer efficient ways of working, for example by introducing new systems and procedures, which, in turn, lead to higher productivity for the business. Apprentices are more likely to stay loyal to the employers who invested in them too, resulting in a lower staff turnover and giving businesses a bank of dedicated individuals they can nurture and develop over a period of time to fit their business needs.

Apprenticeships provide young people with the unique experience of employment coupled with guidance and training towards a recognised qualification. This unique mix offers a flexible career route for young people in a huge range of roles and sectors. Today there are more than 200 types of Apprenticeships available from Accountancy to Graphic Design and from Horticulture to Electric Vehicle Engineering. With hundreds of job roles to choose from the variety is huge and growing all the time.

Apprenticeships are robust qualifications and an investment for companies looking to equip their business with talented staff. Many individuals who study an Apprenticeship progress to further training and education or higher management positions within their organisation, repaying their employer’s investment in them along the way.

We are working with employers, Sector Skills Councils and other partners to develop more Higher Apprenticeship opportunities. They will give potential apprentices access to exciting degree level employment and even higher earning capacity.

As I reflect on another exceptional group of Apprenticeship Award winners, I offer my congratulations to everyone who has been involved. I’m enthusiastic and confident about the future of Apprenticeships and the opportunities they will bring.

Finally I would like to thank our sponsors. Without their support we would not be able to run the Awards programme. They are Unilever and The Outward Bound Trust Award for Young Apprentice of the Year, EDI Award for Intermediate Level Apprentice of the Year, EAL Award for Advanced Level Apprentice of the Year, Rentokil Initial Award for Higher Apprentice, Airbus Award for Small Employer of the Year, Nuclear Decommissioning SLC Award for Medium Employer of the Year, BAE Systems Award for Large Employer of the Year, Cable&Wireless Worldwide Macro Employer of the Year and City & Guilds.

Simon Waugh is chairman of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

To find out more about Apprenticeships visit or call 08000 150 600

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