THE North East's best apprentices and apprentice employers are about to represent the region as finalists in the prestigious National Apprenticeship Awards.
Eight North East companies and apprentices will compete against nine other finalists from across the country in each of their award categories before the finals on June 29 in London.
The eight North East finalists representing the region at the national final are featured on these pages.
Reaching the final is a huge achievement.
This year the awards attracted a record number of applications with more than 1,600 entries – an increase of over 25% on last year’s awards.
Organised by the National Apprenticeship Service, the awards are designed to celebrate the achievements of apprentices and the businesses that employ them.
John Wayman, regional director of the National Apprenticeship Service, said: “The awards are a great opportunity to give our best employers and brightest young apprentices the credit they deserve.
“This year we received a record number of applications which signifies the rising status of apprenticeships and the popularity of apprenticeships goes from strength to strength as more and more companies expand their programmes and launch new ones.
“The variety of entries we have received highlights the wide number of opportunities apprenticeships can bring and it is clear by the calibre of entries that the bar of the competition has been raised.
“Each of our regional finalists is testament to the wealth of apprenticeship talent that we have across the North East and I wish them all every success at the national final.”
Apprenticeships offer young people a training route which combines work-based learning with theory and a recognised qualification, while employers experience a range of benefits when hiring an apprentice, including motivated, skilled staff and increased productivity. Last year more than 18,000 people in the North East started an apprenticeship, which is 7.4% more than 2008-2009.
This year the NAS in partnership with City & Guilds is producing a 2011 Top 100 Apprenticeship Employer List which will consist of the very best employers who entered the National Apprenticeship Awards 2011 employer categories.
The rise follows a Government drive to create thousands of apprenticeships nationwide to bridge the skills gap and reduce unemployment among the young.
The Journal and its sister paper the Evening Gazette launched the 100 in 100 campaign on January 20 with the aim of helping to create 100 apprenticeship places over 100 days, following similar campaigns across the country. Launched in association with the NAS and supported by the North East Chamber of Commerce, the campaign got off to a fantastic start, so much so that the initial target was surpassed by 83 apprentices in its first three weeks.
With a new target of 500 apprentices, the campaign continued to benefit from high-profile backing from some of the region’s key businesses, including US conglomerate Procter & Gamble on Tyneside and Newcastle-based Benfield Motor Group, which have both added additional apprentices during the campaign.
The campaign total reached 500 very quickly and even then the apprenticeships kept flooding in and at the end of the 100 days the total was 1,355 – the best result of the campaign in any part of the UK.
Visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk or call 08000 150 600 to find out more.
North East Apprentice of the year: Adam Nichol, Ashington High School Sports College
ADAM NICHOL, 15, from Ashington, who attends the town’s High School Sports College, began his Young Apprenticeship programme in 2009, studying sports management, leadership and coaching.
He successfully combines his studies with training towards his dream of becoming a professional cricketer and was part of the North of England Under-15 cricket squad.
In addition, he also finds time to lead sports and coaching projects within the local community and as a Young Ambassador for Ashington Sports Partnership, has become an inspirational role model for other young people.
Adam was also instrumental in preventing the closure of his local leisure centre.
He spearheaded a campaign to save the centre which involved rallying councillors, securing widespread media coverage and organising a petition, which more than 3000 local residents signed up to.
He said: "The Young Apprenticeship programme has helped me to focus on my personal, sporting and career goals.
" I have gained a huge amount of experience and enjoyed so many positive opportunities.
"I know that the in-depth knowledge of sport and practical skills I have developed from the qualification will benefit my future career ambitions.
" I am looking forward to the final and hope I can win the national award for the North East."
North East small employer of the year: DW Bathrooms, Spennymoor
SPENNYMOOR-BASED bathroom fitter DW Bathrooms, which employs three people, beat hundreds of entrants to be crowned the North East Small Employer of the Year.
Thanks to the employer’s exceptional support and commitment to learning and development, DW Bathrooms’ first apprentice John Paul Longthorne has become a hugely important and valued asset to the business.
The firm, which recruited its apprentice plumber two years ago, enjoys extremely high customer satisfaction levels and has attracted new customers, which it directly attributes to its apprenticeship commitment. DW Bathrooms, whose apprentice’s training is delivered by New College Durham, has also utilised the apprenticeship programme to embrace and harness new developments and technologies, increasing its range of services and customer base.
The company owner Dean Watson said: "Apprenticeships have provided us with the ideal staffing solution to support our growing business.
"We have been able to recruit someone who is committed and keen to work in our line of business, and mould their skills to deliver high-quality standards and exceptional customer service.
"In my opinion, apprenticeships are an ideal way to boost your business, a young person’s career and give something back to the local community."
North East large employer of the year: Caterpillar, Peterlee
ONE of the region’s leading engineering firms is celebrating after being named as one of the UK’s top apprentice employers.
The Caterpillar Peterlee plant, which manufactures the global giant’s articulated trucks, currently employs 27 apprentices across a number of engineering disciplines.
Caterpillar Peterlee, which delivers its apprenticeship programme in partnership with Hartlepool, Durham, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Darlington Colleges, along with South West Durham Training, has a proud history of apprenticeships with more than 40 of their former apprentices now in staff/technical and management roles.
The organisation’s grow-your-own approach has had a very positive impact, equipping the workforce with the necessary skills to sustain and develop the business and directly contributing to improved quality, productivity and safety across the organisation.
Managing director Phil Handley said: "To meet the needs of our industry, we rely on high-calibre people with the right skills and a forward-thinking attitude and the apprenticeship programme helps us to achieve this.
"It provides structured yet flexible training which suits the developing needs of our business. It also gives us first-class, committed employees who can grow with our organisation – and the high number of former apprentices who have progressed to senior management roles is testament to this.
"It is a real pleasure to see our apprentices progress through the organisation, fulfil their ambitions and develop new skills and we very proud to be recognised as the region’s best large apprentice employer."
North East Apprentice of the year: Reece Hall, Barratt North East, Newcastle
REECE HALL, 17, from Wallsend, is an apprentice bricklayer for housebuilder Barratt North East, currently working at Elba Park, Houghton-le-Spring.
He began his apprenticeship in September last year, with Newcastle College and CITB-ConstructionSkills delivering his training. Despite struggling at school, Reece has turned his life around and become a skilled and highly-valued member of the team at Barratt.
He impressed the regional award judges with his enthusiasm and desire to succeed – always willing to take on new challenges and constantly contributing new solutions to improve efficiency.
He said: "My Apprenticeship has given me a fantastic career opportunity and has also been extremely beneficial to my personal development.
"I have gained so many new skills and am learning more all the time.
"I feel like a really valued member of the team. I am thriving working alongside more experienced members of the team, who are more than happy to pass on their knowledge, but who are also willing to listen to my ideas."
North East higher Apprentice of the year and North East macro employer of the year: Procter & Gamble, North Tyneside
A LEADING North East employer is celebrating after its highly-acclaimed apprenticeship programme received a double accolade.
Consumer goods company Procter & Gamble (P&G) – which has three North East sites at Cobalt Park, Seaton Delaval and Longbenton – has just been named as the North East Macro Employer of the Year and one of their talented apprentices, 20-year-old accounting apprentice Lori Douglass, has been awarded North East Higher Apprentice of the Year.
P&G’s innovative three-year apprenticeship programme – in partnership with Kaplan Financial – combines a full-time role in the finance and accounting department with part-time study for a professional qualification with the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and an optional degree in accounting and controls. It provides the company with a pool of talented and highly-skilled young professionals employed at the company’s Global Financial Service Centre based at Cobalt Park.
Joanne Evans, cost accounting team leader, said: "Both the business and our apprentices benefit from the programme. It leads to experienced and loyal employees who are able to work to a very high standard and we have seen a host of fresh ideas introduced to the business as a result.
"It is extremely rewarding to see apprentices like Lori succeed and fantastic to have our programme recognised." Award-winning apprentice Lori Douglass, from Cramlington, is on the third year of the P&G Apprenticeship programme. She impressed the judging panel with her positive attitude and commitment to excellence – continually going above and beyond expectations to deliver innovative solutions and tangible benefits to the business.
North East advanced Apprentice of year: Nicola Harker, South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust
NICOLA HARKER, a student nurse from Middlesbrough, is 24 and successfully completed her health and social care advanced apprenticeship last August at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.
Her training was delivered by South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, as part of their NHS Skills Escalator programme, which is designed to help the trust develop the workforce of the future.
While an apprentice, Nicola’s dedication to learning, commitment, caring attitude and professional approach led her to being respected and loved by patients and colleagues alike. Extremely supportive of the work-based learning route, Nicola also took on additional responsibilities – acting as an ambassador for the trust to encourage other young people to follow her career pathway and contributing to a range of marketing activities co-ordinated by AimHigher and NHS Careers.
Nicola’s outstanding results and commitment to the apprenticeship programme helped her to win a place to study nursing at the University of Teesside, beginning last September. She said: "My apprenticeship has helped me to find my true vocation in life and pursue my dream profession.
"Learning and development has enhanced my future earnings and career potential and helped me to develop skills that are in demand and recognised all over the world.
"I am well on track to achieve my ambition of being a fully-qualified nurse by 2013 and am looking forward to making a real difference and improving the quality of life for others."
North East medium emplyer of the year: Lotte Chemical UK Ltd, Redcar
A TEESSIDE-BASED chemical manufacturer has been named as the North East Medium Employer of the Year.
Lotte Chemical UK Ltd, based at the Wilton site in Redcar, currently employs 11 engineering and manufacturing apprentices. Two are about to become permanent members of staff after successfully completing their apprenticeship programmes and an additional six new apprentices will be joining the organisation very soon.
Lotte Chemical, which delivers its apprenticeship programme in partnership with training provider the TTE Technical Training Group, has a strong commitment to apprentices that extends well beyond its existing workforce.
It proactively works with partners to look at innovative ways to broaden the scope and reach of apprenticeship programmes in the sector. This ranges from working strategically as a member of the Chemical Advisory Council for the UK and with other bodies to develop common standards across the industry, to working in the local community to educate young people about the opportunities in the sector.
Lotte Chemical is delighted by its success. Gary Conroy, manufacturing and technical director, said: "We have a culture of continuous learning and development and our apprenticeship programme is at the heart of this. Our ethos is that learning should be a journey, not a destination.
"We recognise how important it is that our existing employees transfer their skills and expertise to young, upcoming talent to ensure the future success of the business.
"The influx of new apprentices also benefits our business as they introduce innovative and fresh ideas to help us remain at the forefront of our industry."