Westminster celebration for South Yorkshire apprentices and employer

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Outstanding apprentices from South Yorkshire, and an employer dedicated to training new talent, were honoured at a prestigious House of Lords reception.

It came courtesy of West Nottinghamshire College Group’s annual ‘celebration of apprenticeships’ in the historic building’s Cholmondeley Room on Tuesday 12 July, held to recognise the hard work and commitment of current and former apprentices and their employers.

Now in its fifth year, the ceremony saw almost 30 top-performing apprentices – selected from the college group’s crop of 13,000 across the country – presented with awards and be formally congratulated in front of their proud families and employers for their talent, dedication and contribution to their workplace.

South Yorkshire winners included Lauren Bowdler, 20, from Rotherham – a level 3 business administration apprentice at British Gas Commercial Services, based at the town’s Bradmarsh Business Park.

A trio of level 2 rail engineering apprentices at Doncaster-based New Horizons Apprentices – part of rail infrastructure specialist Trackwork Ltd, which operates from Kirk Sandall Industrial Estate – were also recognised. These were Louis Stacey, 23, and Jade Charlesworth, * 19, both from Doncaster; and Matthew Blackwell, * 20, from Kiveton Park, Sheffield.

Meanwhile, it was a double success for Doncaster-based rail freight operator DB Cargo UK, which operates from Lakeside Business Park on Carolina Way, which received an ‘employer of the year’ accolade moments after level 2 rail services shunting apprentice Jonathon Miller, 28, was also honoured.

Guests heard that DB Cargo had been recognised for its commitment to providing high-quality apprenticeship opportunities to young people, with the aim of plugging a management skills gap in the industry. After joining forces with Vision Apprentices – the college group’s apprenticeship training arm – the company is successfully nurturing its future leaders through apprenticeship programmes in operational and engineering management roles.

Awards were presented by Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and Sherwood MP Mark Spencer.

The high-profile event was once again hosted by The Rt Hon Baroness Prashar CBE, a cross-bench peer who has led several public and voluntary organisations.

Speakers included His Excellency Mr Navtej Sarna, the High Commissioner of India in London; Dame Asha Khemka, principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College Group; and Ms Fairbairn, who talked about the contribution that apprentices make to UK Plc.

Guests at the glittering daytime ceremony included dignitaries, politicians, business leaders and senior figures from the further education, higher education and skills sectors, along with college staff and governors.

Introducing the awards, Baroness Prashar said: “Nothing gives me greater pleasure than supporting this event. It is inspiring to see the apprentices and their achievements being recognised, and to welcome the employers who actually make the apprenticeship scheme work.”

Principal Dame Asha said: “These awards are now firmly-established as one of the highlights in the college calendar and the House of Lords is a truly fitting venue to celebrate our top-performing apprentices, who provide the skills and talent that make their organisations so successful.

“High-quality apprenticeships rely on the commitment and enthusiasm of businesses, so I was particularly delighted to see so many of their employers in attendance.

“There can be no doubt that apprenticeships make a real different to individuals, to employers and to communities. Not only do they help improve the employability skills of our young people, they also propel the economic growth of our nation.

“As the largest college apprenticeship-provider in the country, we are proud to be at the forefront of this vitally-important government priority.”

CBI chief Ms Fairbairn – whose organisation represents 190,000 firms, employing a combined workforce of seven million – said: “The businesses I speak to really get it. They know that hiring an apprentice is not a cost – it’s an investment in their company’s future that they can’t afford not to make.

“So I am thrilled that for the first time, this celebration also saw awards presented to employers as well as to the apprentices.

“For the apprentices, they’re the skills that last a lifetime. For the employers, they are the talent which gives them the edge, which is why so many of them are behind the apprenticeship programme.”