The cream of the Apprenticeship Crop get rewarded

Shrewsbury Colleges Group has held its first Apprenticeship Awards to celebrate the successes of not only those training across a range of sectors, but also the businesses they work with.

At a three course gala dinner and ceremony held at the College’s training restaurant Origins last night (Thurs), 10 awards were handed out to apprentices, including the Apprentice of the Year Award, as well as an Employer of the Year Award.

A panel of judges chose the winners from over 50 apprentices, judging against criteria including commitment, contribution and success within the role, including the overall apprentice and business of the year winners.

Nathaniel Gibbs, a 35-year-old apprentice with Caterpillar, scooped the overall prize.

Principal James Staniforth, said: “We chose Nathaniel because of the outstanding effort he has put into learning and the obvious contribution he was able demonstrate in his work. Since joining the Inspection Department at Caterpillar, Nathaniel has gone above and beyond to seek out further opportunities. He has volunteered to give demonstrations to visitors from local schools and colleges. He has also played a leading role in an apprentice project to design and build a vehicle to race in the Much Wenlock Soapbox Derby.

“As a mature apprentice, it is clear that Nathaniel understands the value in his own learning and development and has actively pursued training in addition to the standard Apprenticeship curriculum, such as the National Physics Laboratory (NPL), which in turn is giving confidence to other apprentice colleagues to ask similar questions.

Alwyn Bedford, Inspection Team Leader at Caterpillar, added: “Nathaniel has also taken the time to analyse and refine the Inspection Team’s e-filing system, which has led to improvements for the whole team. Overall he is an enthusiastic, conscientious and committed apprentice whom we are glad to have in our team. He is a deserving winner of this award and has a great future ahead of him in engineering.”

Nathaniel’s teacher, Chris Caldwell, said: “Nathaniel is a great student. He was totally committed to his learning programme and devoured his NVQ, working ahead of all work set for him by his assessor. His progress was so swift, both in terms of the NVQ and the technical certificate, that it was agreed he should be fast tracked and a two year programme became one year, which he achieved comfortably. Not only did he achieve in record time, he was able to progress to Level 3 with ease.”

He was keen to learn and always has a positive attitude to his studies, even when he might be struggling with a topic. He was a pleasure to teach and I wish that all students' shared his passion for learning.”

Nathaniel said: “I was really surprised to win the Apprentice of the Year Award. I was flattered I was chosen as there were loads of other deserving candidates. I’m really enjoying the Apprenticeship. It’s challenging and there is a lot to learn, but it’s good to go down this route. I have four years to really learn my trade and become skilled so it can take me where I want to go in my career.

“I was a team leader and quality auditor for a deserts company. I wanted to change career and do something that was challenging and where I could continue to learn and develop a career with longevity. The pay cut was tough but it is an investment in my future. I was going to train as a teacher which would have meant paying out £20-30k, so this is a better route.”

Winner of the Employer of the Year Award was Oswestry based IN2 Access & Control Ltd, which manufacture and supply activation safety products to the automatic door and gate industries.

Mr Staniforth, said: “IN2 Access & Control have recruited eight apprentices over the past four years. Director Mark Buchan is totally committed to monitoring each individual’s progress. He attends all employer reviews and also requests feedback after each assessment visit. 

“Mark works closely with the College and sees the role of the College and the employer as both being key to the development of apprentices. Full time jobs have been offered to seven apprentices as the company sees them as being key to the future of the business.

“Mark is an enthusiastic and committed leader, all staff in the organisation work hard for him. No one wants to let him down. In turn, they are rewarded for their dedication.

Mr Buchan, Director of IN2 Access & Control Ltd, said: “It was a massive surprise to win. We work well together with Shrewsbury College and have done for a number of years. We really orientate ourselves towards apprentices because helping them fit into the business world is really important to us. It’s one of the key elements from our point of view, we want to employ young people and help guide them through a significant stage in their careers. We encourage our apprentices to move forward with their careers within this business or elsewhere in the future.”

Mr Staniforth added: “It’s absolutely heart-warming to hear that students and employers are gaining so much value from the Apprenticeship programme with us. For some people it’s absolutely the right route and it enables these students to get hands on experience and the academic excellence they need to progress in their careers. With changes to the programme, which puts the employers at the centre of the training programme, apprentices are not only able to fulfil roles which they need to drive their businesses forward, but also to make a valuable difference to the future shaping of their companies. I want to offer my congratulations to every student who has won an award tonight.”