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Sunderland apprentices honoured at inspiring awards event

Sunderland apprentices honoured at inspiring awards event

Sunderland College (@sunderlandcol) apprentices were among those honoured at Education Partnership North East’s (EPNE) inspiring VIP event as part of National Apprenticeship Week. 

Held at the college’s City Campus and hosted by EPNE Chief Executive Ellen Thinnesen, the Business and Apprenticeship Awards was attended by senior leaders from across the region and beyond.   

The evening saw four Sunderland College apprentices receive ‘Apprentice of the Year’ across several sectors from EPNE governor and AkzoNobel’s Manufacturing Director of Decorative Paints and AkzoNobel Jeff Hope for their outstanding dedication and commitment to their employers. 

Among the award winners were Beth Parodi (Engineering), Nathan Willis (Public Sector), Caitlyn Harper (Health and Social Care), and Chloe Nichols (Professional Business Services).   

Progressing from a Technical Study Programme to an apprenticeship with manufacturer ZF Automotive in 2021, Beth has become an important member of the Quality team after overcoming many challenges which demonstrated her resilience. 

A shining example of how apprenticeships can change and shape a young person’s life, Beth is now studying towards a HNC in Engineering and her future looks very bright. 

She said: “I didn’t expect to receive the award, but I was over the moon when I found out I had. It made me feel like all the effort and hard work I had put into this apprenticeship over the past 3 years had definitely paid off. 

“Sunderland college has helped me increase my knowledge and progressive development towards being an engineer.” 

Lisa Hudson, HR Manager at ZF added: “Beth is an invaluable asset to the company. Her dedication and contributions reflect her excellence and ZF’s commitment to fostering talent and diversity within its workforce.” 

Apprentice of the Year in the Public Sector was presented to Nathan Willis who is described as ‘a shining example of the limitless potential of apprenticeships’ by his colleagues at Sunderland City Council. 

Initially specialising as an Information Communications Technician, he is now a Customer Support Officer, proving that hard work, persistence, and undeniable talent can lead to incredible growth. 

His dedication to his apprenticeship has been evident to all who have had the privilege of working alongside him, and his efforts, innovation and constant delivery of high-quality results have not gone unnoticed. 

Nathan said: “Sunderland college and Sunderland City Council have been fantastic with supporting me throughout the apprenticeship, I would recommend them to anyone who would like to work and receive education at the same time.”  

Steven Piercy, Customer Service Desk manager, within the ICT Customer Support Team at Sunderland City Council added:

“Everyone in Sunderland City Council’s ICT Service were over the moon to see Nathan win the very much deserved ‘Apprentice of the year’ award.  

“Nathan has proved to be a valuable asset to the team and is repeatedly picked out for specific praise by our customers. It is a source of pride that we are able to partner with EPNE to employ apprentices and support them through the course, building their confidence and knowledge in order to provide them with the opportunity to progress in to a long and fruitful career.” 

Caitlyn Harper was the youngest apprentice that South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust had employed when she started her Level 2 Health and Social Care in 2019. Just as she was settling into her new role, COVID hit, and she was faced with the pandemic. 

Learning was switched to online sessions, and she regularly moved wards due to demand and need but never complained, keeping up her high standards while also supporting a family member who had fallen ill. 

Excelling in her efforts, achieving a distinction and then completing her Level 3 qualification. After successfully applying for a promotion within the Community Team, Caitlyn is now studying towards an Adult Nursing degree apprenticeship with the Trust. 

Caitlyn said: “It meant a lot to me to receive apprentice of the year and to be invited to the awards was an opportunity to celebrate my hard work during my apprenticeship.   

“The college was great during my apprenticeship, especially my assessor Lorraine.”  

Gemma Taylor, Workforce Development and Education Manager at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust added: “We are proud to support our apprentice of the year Caitlyn Harper. 

“The awards ceremony was a great evening celebrating her success. Caitlyn joined us straight from school completing a level 2 then a level 3 and has just embarked on her nurse degree apprenticeship programme.” 

The final Sunderland-based award went to Chloe Nichols in the Professional Business Sector. Starting her apprenticeship in September 2022, she quicky settled into the rhythm and expectations of a professional work environment within Gentoo. 

Part of a specialist team who help and support former customers with rent arrears, she has demonstrated an outstanding approach to providing customer service with empathy, sensitivity, patience and a level of maturity beyond her years and experience. 

Her work has had a positive impact for both Gentoo customers and the organisation. 

Chloe said: “My overall apprentice experience has been amazing. I have loved gaining on the job experience whilst working towards my qualification. Working with Sunderland College has helped me as I’ve received lots of support and great feedback from my lecturer Tim.   

“My time as an apprentice working for Gentoo has been a very positive experience and I can’t wait to see what my future at holds for me.”   

In addition to the awards ceremony, guests and stakeholders were served a meal in the critically acclaimed City Bistro restaurant which was prepared and served by Sunderland College’s professional cookery and hospitality students.   

Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive of EPNE said:

“Hearing why apprentices had won their awards was really moving and it was clear the ceremony and individual recognition meant so much to not only the apprentice and employer, but to parents and family members too.   

“It was great to see so many employers attend from right across the region in a range of sectors and industries. It’s a real reflection of the many brilliant organisations in the northeast, who along with colleges such EPNE, strive to make a real difference for our economy, place and the skills needs of today and tomorrow.” 

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