Keith Smith, Director of Apprenticeships, Education & Skills Funding Agency

There is a reason why the UK government is backing apprenticeships and committed to creating more quality career opportunities.

As well as the economic advantage of tackling our productivity gap and boosting businesses of all shapes and sizes with the skills they need, apprenticeships are one of the most empowering and rewarding undertakings an individual can decide to do.

Irrespective of age or background, the benefits are both plentiful and diverse – learning new skills, building confidence, getting first-hand experience of an industry, forming new relationships and contacts and opening future career opportunities – all whilst earning and learning on the job.

Held next week on 28th Nov, the National Apprenticeship Awards, run by the National Apprenticeship Service, are an important point in the apprenticeship calendar.

They seek to inspire top apprenticeship employers, apprentices and apprenticeship ambassadors from across the country to step forward and show how apprenticeships have made a real difference to their organisation and careers.

Now in its fifteenth year, the Awards celebrate the employers who value apprenticeships as a way to grow their own talent, the apprentices who have made enormous contributions to their workplace and the individuals who have gone above and beyond to support apprenticeships.

Judged by a team of experts, entrants are crowned as regional winners at one of nine ceremonies across the country, with a panel selecting the overall national winner, to be recognised at the national ceremony.

For 2018, the Awards have been refreshed – so what do they have in store?

PeoplePlus Award

Firstly, we’ve introduced the ‘PeoplePlus Award’ for Recruitment Excellence, recognising those employers who, through new and innovative approaches to recruitment, have attracted a diverse and high-quality apprenticeship workforce.

Without the wonderful work that apprentices up and down the country are doing the Awards quite simply wouldn’t exist at all.

And that’s why this year we’ve made a move to really put them front and centre of the awards by introducing the ‘Rising Star’ category.

Rising Star Award


One of the most exciting features of apprenticeships is the potential they unlock in those who undertake them, as they utilise newfound skills and understanding to reach their long-term aspirations. The ‘Rising Star’ Award will recognise this; acknowledging not just the progress an individual has made in their career to date but the potential they have to go even further.

The category will showcase those who have made great progress so far in their careers and demonstrated huge potential to march along a career path in their chosen profession, right to the very top.

A key distinction for this category is that entrants are nominated by their employers, a fine recognition itself of what they have achieved to date.

What’s more, the public were invited to place their votes for the winner, to be announced at the final ceremony. We received over 7,000 votes and this superb support is key to empowering businesses and individuals alike to embrace apprenticeships and the benefits that they bring.

Regional Winners

Back in September, the awards judging panel had the difficult decision of choosing nine regional winners, coming from a rich variety of industries and organisations including BAE Systems, Transport for London, Edward Cooper Young Chartered Surveyors and the Plumbing Heating & Electrical Specialists SW&L.

Anne milton100x100About the Regional Awards Anne Milton, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills said:

Well done and huge congratulations to all the national finalists! And what a range of sectors you represent - and at all levels.

I’ve met apprentices and employers up and down the country, and one thing they all share is passion for apprenticeships and the opportunities they create to change lives. To make sure as many people as possible are aware of apprenticeships and the change they can bring, we need people like you. You should be very proud of your achievement!

I wish them all the best of luck for the award ceremony on 28 November.

These individuals were chosen for having made a tangible impact on their business; be it guest satisfaction, profit or running campaigns. They have all exceeded their employer’s expectations and added value by acquiring new skills and qualifications.

All of us can learn a great deal from their drive, capacity to learn and a willingness to regularly step out of their comfort zones.

They are testament to the brilliance of apprentices and the opportunity apprenticeships bring to the lives of individuals.

Challenges to Overcome

There are still challenges to overcome. We need to continue to work to ensure all apprentices feel fully engaged and motivated throughout their apprenticeship, being kept informed of their development in a way fitting for the digital world we live in.

It is important to continue to work to make sure training is of a high quality, so that businesses have confidence that their money is being well spent, and that these employer-led apprenticeships deliver the quality those doing them are looking for.

Most of all, we need to inspire more and more organisations of all sizes to realise how valuable they are; developing people who have adaptable skills ready for today and the future world of work.

This is why the National Apprenticeship Awards national ceremony is so important. It’s a night to celebrate all the great achievements of the apprenticeship community and the many benefits apprenticeships bring to employers and the lives of individuals.

Most importantly, it is a fine moment to appreciate the contribution that the rising stars of English business and industry are having.

Keith Smith, Director of Apprenticeships, Education & Skills Funding Agency

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