As the ninth National Apprenticeship Week gets underway, the Skills Company has announced the winners of its own annual Apprenticeship Awards.  Awards have been given for Apprentice of the Year, Pre-Apprentice of the Year, and Apprentice Employer of the Year. 

The award winners are taking part in a ‘pass the torch’ campaign, which symbolises the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next.  The Olympic-style torch was designed and manufactured by apprentices at the Greater Manchester SkillCentre in Trafford Park, and is part of a national campaign launched by Prime Minister David Cameron at the National Apprenticeship Awards in January.

The Apprentice of the Year award has gone to 22 year old Lisa Grimes from Leigh.  Lisa works at Creative Support, a nationwide not for profit organisation  based in Manchester city centre.  Creative Support provides care and support to vulnerable adults who have a wide range of needs.  Lisa began her journey at the age of 17 when she joined a pre-apprenticeship programme at the Skills Company, where she gained her AAT Level 2 in Accounting, before starting her apprenticeship at Creative Support.

Lisa completed her Level 3 apprenticeship in accounting in 12 months, and progressed to her Level 4.  As her responsibilities at work grew, Lisa found it difficult to balance her studies with the increasing demands of her job, but with the encouragement of her manager, Michelle Knowles and her Skills Company trainer, Jillian Ward, she came through the difficulties and passed all her exams with flying colours.

Lisa is now considering taking her studies further and enrolling on a Chartered Institute of Management Accounting course inSeptember this year.  Lisa said “Without the help from the Skills Company and my manager, Michelle, I wouldn’t be where I am today, not only do I have a good job, I’m now the proud owner of a car and I’m on the property ladder, buying my first house”

The Pre-Apprentice of the Year award was won by Luke Pollitt.  Luke attended East Manchester Academy where he struggled with his studies and needed individual support and assistance, but left school at 16 with little in the way of qualifications.  Luke started to attend the Skills Company’s North Manchester training centre in August 2015 and embarked on a study programme that involved maths, English, employability and a placement.

Luke did exceptionally well at the training centre, and made excellent progress in his studies. This culminated with him receiving the Maths Learner of the Week award and an interview for a placement at his old school to work with the Pupil Support Team.

Luke made another positive start when he began his placement at East Manchester Academy and has now completed his placement with an excellent attendance and punctuality record. He’s also received some fantastic feedback from the staff at the school.  One member of staff said:  “Luke has made a major impact on a number of pupils within the school. His attitude has been excellent.”

The school are keen to continue supporting Luke and are looking at possible Teaching Assistant courses for him and progression into an apprenticeship with The Skills Company.

In a review Luke had this to say about his placement:  “It’s all good because I got the placement that I really wanted.  It’s going very well and I am enjoying being a mentor and working with the teachers.  It’s a thumbs up from me.”

Wythenshawe Community Housing Group (WCHG) has scooped the Apprenticeship Employer of the Year award.  WCHG recruits a number of construction apprentices each year in various trade areas. The people recruited are all from their local area, as they believe in putting something back into the community, offering the opportunity to learn and gain the skills to enter employment to raise the aspirations of local young people.

WCHG’s young Apprenticeship Programme offers fantastic opportunities for their young recruits, providing a springboard into a career within their chosen trade area, whether that be with WCHG or in the wider construction sector

Jayne Worthington, Managing Director of the Skills Company said:

“National Apprenticeship Week is all about celebrating the impact that apprenticeships have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy, and our ‘pass the torch’ campaign aims to spread the word about how apprenticeships can change lives and improve communities.  The winners of these three awards exemplify all that is best about apprenticeships.  From Luke, who has made such fantastic progress in his pre-apprenticeship programme to Lisa who has excelled in her professional studies, to WCHG who have shown such a desire to make a positive impact in their community, they are all extremely worthy winners.”