From education to employment

Ellie Burke, the Aspiration Awards Apprentice of the Year, shares her story

A social care apprentice who was nearly lost to education has overcome a range of personal challenges to win a national award.  

Ellie Burke, from Rochdale, faced an uncertain future after facing family bereavement, struggling with her confidence due to alopecia, and caring for her brother who has Down’s Syndrome.  

But those same caring responsibilities sparked an interest in helping others, and after a transformative 12-week course with the Prince’s Trust, Ellie secured an opportunity with Rochdale Training and has gone on to be named Apprentice of the Year as part of NCFE’s Aspiration Awards.  

Ellie said: “The apprenticeship itself has helped me to become a better person and a better support worker. It’s allowed me to build on skills that I never thought I had.” 

Since beginning her Level 2 Health and Social Care apprenticeship, Ellie’s confidence has soared and she’s flourished academically and personally, completing numerous additional qualifications. Her commitment to personal development is evident, even tackling her difficulties with maths by requesting extra lessons and dedicating weekends and evenings. 

Roxanne Sharp, Health and Social Care Tutor at Rochdale Training, said: “Ellie is one of the best apprentices I’ve ever met. Ellie has been on a tough journey over the previous few years, but she’s been determined to progress. She’s stayed focused on the future and her dream of pursuing a career path to help others in the health and social care sector.”   

Beyond the classroom, Ellie works with individuals with mental and physical healthcare needs at Gateway Leisure in Rochdale which allows her to follow her passion for the care sector. She supports service users on day trips and helps engage them in new activities like Zumba. Her hands-on approach includes assisting with transport needs, personal care, and hoisting, with managers applauding her for her positive, mature approach and ability to handle challenging situations with ease.  

Commenting on her practical work experience, Ellie shared that she finds it “so rewarding, and seeing service users smiling is what makes the job worthwhile.” 

Ellie has rapidly progressed through the apprenticeship, taking on lead roles within six months and maintaining 100% attendance. Her proactive attitude is evident as she consistently meets deadlines, produces high-quality work, and seeks to enhance her skills.  

Now acting as an ambassador for apprenticeships, Ellie actively encourages others to consider this pathway: “I’d definitely recommend an apprenticeship because it helps you to learn new skills and gives you more support on the right path to your future. I enjoy attending school events and telling others about the benefits of being an apprentice.” 

Ellie’s hard work does not stop there. She also finds the time to squeeze in volunteering work alongside her academic pursuits, and from the Sanctuary Trust café to Moorhouse Children’s Centre and fundraising walks, her efforts have made a tangible difference in the local community.  

From a nervous, reserved individual to a confident, proactive apprentice, Ellie is a prime example of resilience and determination. Looking to the future, she hopes to have a successful career in the social care sector. Her impact on Gateway Leisure and the wider community over the past year has been profound, and she continues to make a positive difference in the lives of those who need it the most.  

Created by the leader in vocational and technical learning NCFE, the Aspiration Awards are now in their seventh year and honour learners, educators and organisations across the UK.   

David Gallagher, Chief Executive of NCFE, said: “Ellie is a remarkable apprentice who is making a positive difference to service users within her role, despite facing challenges in her own journey. NCFE is delighted to present Ellie with this award.” 

Check out the video on Ellie, Aspiration Awards 2024, Apprentice of the Year below:

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