The Hotcourses Apprentice of the Year awards are over for another year, wrapped up in a prize giving presentation to our winners (giant cheque included). As the excitement concludes and our successful apprentices return to college, we look back at the highlights of the awards.
Here at Hotcourses we believe an apprenticeship is the perfect foundation to a career and ran our three month project to highlight the importance of these schemes to the UK economy. The awards were a chance for us to recognise the hard work, dedication and success of some of the best learners in the country. Our expert judging panel were blown away with the high calibre of entries, so much so, it was decided there would be awards for second and third place too.
As the apprenticeship verses degree debate rages on, here in the UK an increasing number of students seem to be ditching university to follow a more vocational path. With nearly half of businesses nationwide planning to start a scheme in the next five years, 43% of employers say they are more likely to offer this option now than they were two years ago. The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) report that double the number of students going to university have chosen to start a training course instead. Managing director Michelle Richmond, herself a former apprentice, told us – ‘With a university degree costing £27,000 in fees alone and with no guarantee of a job at the end of the course, apprenticeships are more popular than ever with young people.’
What’s more, a growing number of apprenticeships give you a benefit that money can’t buy - the backing of some of the nation’s most prestigious organisations. In the past few months alone the likes of BT, BMW and Premier Inn have announced they’ll be taking on huge amounts of additional trainees this year. The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Barclays launch their search this spring, joining Lloyds Banking who have expanded their scheme by double to offer places to 1,000 new starters. As the biggest employer nationwide, the British Army offer places to 5,500 new recruits each year, alongside the RAF’s estimated 1,700 places. Huge brands like Tesco and Nestle have also confirmed that they will continue to support their large apprentice training schemes - so there are opportunities to transform your career whatever the sector.
With no age restrictions, you can never be too old to start again – something that our Apprentice of the Year winner, Keith Fenwick, undoubtedly proves. Blowing our panel away, the judges were all in agreement that Keith was deserving of the top spot. Far from your typical apprentice, Keith is a 42 year old father of five with two careers behind him; working for BT for ten years and setting up his own business before he decided to embark on his new start. Telling our judges, ‘I took a good look at where I was, and where I would like to be, and my final decision was to wipe the slate clean and start from the beginning. The first thing that came to mind was a trade qualification and go from there, and as far as I was concerned, the best way to achieve my goal was to go down the apprenticeship route.’
Keith currently works at IRISNDT in non-destructive testing whilst working towards his qualification in mechanical engineering. Our judges were all in agreement that going back to education at a later stage was a brave move, most of Keith’s contemporaries being aged 16-19. With children himself, Keith has quickly become ‘one of the gang’ and is a role model to his fellow students. Taking this in his stride Keith said, ‘As an older apprentice, I feel privileged to work alongside these guys and to see their enthusiasm and ability daily. They will all be very successful in their careers, no doubt about it.’ With his family behind him, we are sure Keith will achieve his dreams. When asking him what advice he would give to those re-thinking their career later in life, Keith declared, ‘It really isn’t as daunting as you think! The application process is straight forward and you will be encouraged to keep your options open until you find the position that best fits your skills set. Go for it!’
With twelve shortlisted candidates our judges found picking one winner too difficult. One entry that encouraged the decision for extra prizes was Georgina Taylor, whose quirky video and endearing story grabbed the judges. A truly deserving winner; Georgina is on target to achieve top grades this year and has been given extra responsibility by her employers SMS Electronics. Embodying the values the Apprentice of the Year award set out to celebrate, MD of Hotcourses Mark O’Donoghue, added, ‘We like that she is representing women in science and we were impressed with her unique video showing creativity. We think Georgina is an excellent role model for other young women who might be considering apprenticeships.’ Engineering is not a typical choice for most females in the education system, yet Georgina has no intentions of letting this stop her; ‘I’d really like to become a chartered engineer. That’s a professional status for an engineer and I’d really like to make it to the top. You have to aim high don’t you?’ – We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
Our third place award went to Zubeyde Ozsayan, who is hoping her apprenticeship will lead to a job as a fully qualified accountant. Like many of the apprentices in the shortlist, her path has not been easy, initially applying to do a hairdressing course before realising it was numbers, rather than hair styles that got her out of bed in the morning. The judging panel saw her as a brand ambassador, excelling in the workplace but also keen to promote the apprenticeship route; ‘My favourite part of the apprenticeship is that I can practise what I learned in college, at work. Doing this makes me happy because I see I’m actually progressing. I would definitely recommend apprenticeships for everybody out there.’
One thing all three candidates prove is that it may not be an easy road, but with hard work and determination an apprenticeship can get you a step closer to that dream job. If Keith, Georgina and Zubeyde have inspired you, remember it is never too late to enrol and make a change – who knows where it might lead you!
Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.