National Apprenticeship Awards

Posted on 30 Jun 2011 by The Manufacturer

Industry recognised its leaders in skills last night at the National Apprenticeship Awards 2011 where BAE Systems, and Sheffield Forgemasters emerged as star employers.

Those who followed @TheManufacturer and its editor @janefagray on Twitter last night will already be aware of the accolades received by manufacturing apprentices and employers at the starry National Apprenticeship Awards in London.

To start, Team UK for the WorldSkills London 2011 competition was unveiled to rapturous applause and a standing ovation, for the manufacturing team challenge, BAE Systems was announced as the qualifier having just beaten Bentley to the spot during intensive selection competions earlier this month. (A full list of thw qualifiewrs for manufacturing related WorldSkills categories will be published in the July issue of TM.)

Following the Team UK announcement Sir Alan Jones, formally of Vauxhall, GM, Toyota and Semta received a Lifetime Achievement Award for services to vocational education.

Sir Alan started his career as an apprentice at the age of 16 and has shown zeal beyond the call of duty throughout his working life, in seizing opportunities for personal and professional development. His recognition last night is well deserved and, in a rare moment of sentimentality at such industry event, Sir Alan thanked his wife, Mary, for also acting as a “true apprentice” and never “ducking a challenge” as he led them from pillar to post in his diverse career.

The presentation of the National Apprenticeship Award 2011 was presided over by Claire Young, a past winner of the BBCs The Apprentice and Simon Waugh, CEO of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS). Other notable speakers for the evening however, included JohnHayes, Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, and David Way, COO of NAS.

The message broadcast at last night’s awards was clear and optimistic. Hayes said: “This is is golden age for apprenticeships.”

The Minister went on to assert that there will be more apprenticeships in progress by the end of this year than ever before and those who are helping to promote this golden age even further are receiving support. It was announced last night that David will be recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year for his services to apprenticeships.

Although last night’s ceremony was really designed to pour praises on the achievements of individuals who, as Sir Allan Jones put it in his address, “are just starting out, but have already achieved so much”, the acknowledgement of employer and training provider effort in the delivery of apprenticeships was noticeable.

Headline manufacturing names which confirmed their ability to act as industry role models included; Sheffield Forgemasters, which took away the prize for Large Employer of the Year and BAE Systems which ran away with the Macro Employer of the Year Award – just pipping Rolls-Royce at the post.

As Simon Waugh said “without them [employers] there would be no [apprenticeship] programme”. Sir Allan however, went further to say that delivery was not enough and that we must pay tribute to the quality and dedication of those who are supporting truly innovative and inspiring apprenticeship programmes.

Reflecting this belief NAS announced a partnership last night with City and Guild which will see the publication of a Top Apprenticeship Employers report. The 2011 list will be published today in The Sun and The Times; spreading the good news of employer motivation and leadership across a wide range of UK readerships and social demographics.

Graham Honeyman, CEO of heavy engineering firm Sheffield Forgemasters, which triumphed last night by taking both the Large Employer of the Year Award (sponsored by BAE Systems) and qualifying for the new Top 100 listing said: “We are absolutely delighted. We are surprised, because the competition was very strong, but thanks goes to our whole management team.” Honeyman’s views were echoed by his HR director Sharon Ward who also attended.

Ward and Graeme made clear both the opportunity for businesses and for individuals in supporting apprenticeships.

At Sheffield Forgemeasters 77 out of 800 employees are currently apprentices, a fact which has lowered the age demographic of the workforce, bringing fresh perspective vitality and engagement at all levels.

Honeyman was also keen to announce that two of the company’s directos were recently appointed from and apprenticeship grounding. Honey said it has taken these highly driven individuals just 11 or 12 years to reach such a senior level.

The inspirational story here for individuals seeking progression and companies looking to foster talent is not hard to see.

Despite a year of growth for apprenticeships however, there is still more to be done. The closing speaker at last night’s emotional event was His Excellency, Anton Thalmann, the Swiss Ambassador to the UK. In a surprising show of international solidarity for vocational skills promotion, the Swiss Government had chosen to sponsor last night’s awards and Mr Thalman explained that the country wished to see its own culture, where 2/3 of young people choose to include apprenticeships as a part of their education, expand across Europe.