Apprentices, employers and family members celebrated the latest cohort of successes at the multi-site college group WCG’s (formerly Warwickshire College Group) fifth Apprenticeship Graduation and Celebration of Awards ceremony at Old Shire Hall, Warwick on Thursday 7 March.

The event, which took place during National Apprenticeship Week, celebrated 26 apprentices who had completed a range of apprenticeship programmes from engineering and horticulture to farriery and business administration at a diverse range of companies.

The ceremony began with a  VIP drinks reception at the historic Grade 1 listed building in Northgate Street, before CEO Angela Joyce gave the welcome address. Following that guest of honour Sir Gerry Berragan, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education gave a keynote speech on the importance of apprenticeships.

During his speech, Sir Gerry, whose organisation has the responsibility to deliver apprenticeships in the UK said that apprenticeships were geared around improving the productivity of the UK economy and that there has never been a better time for organisations to take on an apprentice.

He also mentioned that on the eve of International Women’s Day it was good to see that fifty percent of the apprentices being celebrated were female. He added that employing women was a route to improved diversity within a business and that more were needed in the sciences, manufacturing and technology sectors.

Sir Gerry Berragan said: “It was a privilege to speak before the WCG apprentices. The event was a great opportunity to celebrate the key role that apprenticeships play with instilling the next generation with valuable and much-needed skills. I would like to congratulate everyone who graduated and the outstanding apprentices given special recognition. They are a credit to themselves and their employers.”

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Following the speeches, all the apprentices took to the stage to receive their official graduation scrolls from WCG CEO, Angela Joyce and awards were also made to Outstanding Apprentices in three industry sectors.

  • Luke Harrison, a Level 3 Advanced Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering apprentice with B² Automotive Group won the Outstanding Apprentice in Engineering

  • Kieran Nield, a Level 2 Land-based Service Engineering apprentice with Global Plant Sales won the Outstanding Apprentice in Land-based, Motor Vehicle and Construction

  • Shannon Wilkes, a Level 3 Diploma in Dental Nursing apprentice with Euston Place Dental Practice and Harley Cordner-Young, a Level 2 Business Administration apprentice with Healthy Performance were joint winners of the Outstanding Apprentice in Service Industries award

  • Rebecca Silverthorne, a Level 2 Customer Service Practitioner apprentice with Ashbee Dental Care was given a Service Industries special commendation

Angela Joyce, CEO of WCG said: “Apprenticeships are one of the most established ways of bringing new talent into the workforce - and one of the ways that the UK can remain competitively skilled in the future. We are extremely proud of all our apprentices and it was wonderful to see such a diverse wide range of sectors represented from farriery to business administration and from engineering to childcare.

"As the largest provider of apprenticeship programmes in the Midlands we are also delighted to be working with a variety of organisations, from large household names to local micro-businesses. Congratulations to all of the apprentices on achieving their apprenticeships - we wish them all the very best for the future and continued success in their careers.”

Luke Harrison, from Coventry is employed at B² Automotive Components in Coventry to produce bespoke automotive parts. The 23-year-old studied for his apprenticeship programme at WCG’s specialist engineering and motor vehicle college, Warwick Trident in Poseidon Way. Luke said: “I am thrilled to get this award. It’s been four years of very hard work but definitely worth it. Warwick Trident has been brilliant! I would definitely recommend becoming an apprentice as it has given me the skills and credentials needed for a future career in engineering.”

Managing Director Geoff Buxton from B² Automotive Components, said: “Luke thoroughly deserves his award as he has been an outstanding apprentice academically and on the practical side. He is always motivated, works at a highly productive level and frequently goes above and beyond to help with deadlines. Since starting work on the CNC machines he has excelled. He is the only operator on site and as a result has the responsibility of writing, proofing and running the CNC programmes. Luke is an extremely valued member of the team and uses his skills to the benefit of the company. He will do well.”

Kieran Nield works as an apprentice technician at Global Plant Sales in King’s Heath. After doing his A-Levels he realised that going down the university route was not for him. After a successful summer holiday job working at the company, Kieren was offered employment as an apprenticeship. The 21-year-old - also from King’s Heath - studied his Level 2 apprenticeship programme at the Pershore College, Worcestershire, which specialises in horticulture, animal studies and land-based service engineering.

Kieran is now continuing his academic learning by doing his Level 3 qualification at Pershore College in order to become a fully-qualified service technician. He said: “Studying for an apprenticeship has changed my life and opened so many doors and possibilities. It’s been the bridge between childhood and adulthood. I’d one hundred percent recommend it - without a doubt!”

Service Manager Dan Fasham from Global Plant Sales, said: “Employing Kieran through the apprenticeship scheme has been a very worthwhile investment for business. He brings enthusiasm and a willingness to learn as well as a natural ability to apply himself to all jobs he is tasked with. It’s been a pleasure to impart our knowledge to him and we have no doubt he will go on to great things within the company.”

At age six, Shannon Wilkes from Southam was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called dystonia. She had to have deep brain surgery to help her walk again. Now 20, Shannon works at the Euston Dental Practice in Leamington Spa as a dental nurse after completing her apprenticeship qualification at Royal Leamington Spa College.

Shannon said: “My apprenticeship journey at Euston Place Dental Practice has been an amazing experience. I am extremely grateful for the continuous support provided throughout my apprenticeship from all of my colleagues. I could not have done it without such a great team. Also, I can not thank my tutors enough for the help and support they have provided throughout my time at college. I attended college once a week and this benefited me in many ways. Not only did it boost my confidence, it also gained me a great group of friends. Graduation was a great night and I was so overwhelmed when I received the award of 'Outstanding Apprentice for Service Industries'. Receiving it has made me realise that you should never let disabilities hold you back and that anyone can achieve anything they set their mind to.”

Principal dentist at Euston Place Dental Practice, Dr Douglas Watt, said: “Ever since Shannon joined the practice she has been an asset to the team with a very positive attitude and great work ethic. She has developed into an exceptional team member. "We have been taking on apprentice dental nurses for a number of years now and we feel lucky to have been able to add so many outstanding team members to the practice through this training pathway. We couldn’t be prouder of what Shannon has achieved in winning the joint Service Industries Outstanding Apprentice and we look forward to seeing how her career will develop in the future.”

Harley, 20, from Stockton, works supporting the operations team at Healthy Performance, an employee health and well-being company based in Southam. Harley, who studied his business administration qualification at Royal Leamington Spa College, said: “My experience as an apprentice for Healthy Performance has been an extremely positive one. Although it has challenged me in many ways and pushed me out of my comfort zone, the result is that my confidence has grown as a result of undertaking activities which I would have previously found very difficult or would never have seen myself being able to do.

“I am overjoyed on receiving recognition for my achievements and extremely appreciative to all the staff at Leamington College for their guidance and support. I would actively encourage anyone to consider an apprenticeship programme and can’t recommend it enough for how it has taught me a great number of skills and has brought me out of my shell.”

Operations Team Leader at Healthy Performance, Kerry Eason, said: “Since beginning his career at Healthy Performance, Harley has made a positive difference across several areas of the organisation. His attention to detail ensures that all reports and data sent to our clients are accurate along with various requests from his colleagues and the senior leadership team.

“His knowledge and accuracy has led to managers gaining trust in the work he produces which has led to Harley being selected to look after a new projects and systems including technical and software development. We are extremely proud of Harley being recognised as the joint Service Industries Outstanding Apprentice. He has worked very hard for this and we all feel it’s totally deserved. Harley is a credit to our organisation and WCG.”

Rebecca Silverthorne works as a dental receptionist at Ashbee Dental Care in Chipping Campden. The 20-year-old from Honeybourne won a special commendation for being the first apprentice at WCG for passing through the new national customer services practitioner apprenticeship standard. On-the-job training was perfect for Rebecca who after leaving school didn’t want to be stuck in a classroom all day. She was able to complete her apprenticeship at Evesham College in 18 months by attending less than one day a week.

On being awarded her special commendation she said: “I am so shocked and happy! During my apprenticeship I have learnt how to speak to and deal with all sorts of people which has really made me grow in confidence. I have been really supported by my tutors at Evesham College so can’t thank them enough. I love my job and would recommend being an apprentice one hundred per cent!”

Practice Manager at Ashbee Dental Care, Amy Locke said: “It has been great to see Rebecca grow into her role as a dental receptionist. Her 'Special Commendation' is as a result of her hard work and enthusiasm. It is highly rewarding to see Rebecca flourish as an apprentice to become an integral part of our dental team.”

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