Newcastle College held its first Apprenticeship Awards earlier this month, honouring Apprentices and companies from across the region in a glitzy ceremony at The Copthorne Hotel.
The evening, held on Thursday 8 March to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, recognised achievements made within the College’s apprenticeship programme over the past year.
Marc McPake, Director of Business Partnerships at Newcastle College introduced the event, saying: “This evening is all about celebrating success of individuals and organisations.
“In my role I have the pleasure of hearing how well our apprentices are progressing on their programmes and have seen incredible examples of unwavering dedication from our apprentices, colleagues and employer partners.
“We are so pleased to be able to recognise that hard work with these awards and have been extremely impressed with all of the nominations.”
Apprenticeships have become a key focus for Newcastle College recently, after the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and Degree Apprenticeships.
Commenting on the changes, Marc said, “Apprenticeships are no longer only suitable for school leavers, although they remain a vital way for companies to recruit the next generation of their team.
“Our aim at Newcastle College is to educate individuals that apprenticeships are a positive career choice, whilst championing apprenticeships to employers as a strategic investment which can be used to recruit or upskill existing team members to support business growth and development. We really want to shout about apprenticeships because we know they’re great, and we know they work.”
Nine awards were given out on the night, including three surprise awards for Apprenticeship Employer of the Year, Skills Trainer of the Year and Outstanding Apprentice of the Year.
The College’s Apprenticeships team, who work closely with employer partners to support their apprentices, were tasked with deciding Apprentice Employer of the Year, designed to recognise the significant time and investment dedicated to apprentices within a business.
The team awarded this to Northumbrian Water, a company which has made a lengthy commitment to invest in their current workforce, choosing to upskill a large number of its workforce through apprenticeships.
Tracey Greener, Training Contracts Manager at Northumbrian Water commented: “Winning this award is fantastic recognition of the way our business has embraced apprenticeships in a wide range of roles, not only as entry points for careers, but as opportunities for experienced employees to continue their development.
“Apprenticeships are a great way to earn and learn at the same time, and now that applies to people at all levels and of all ages. With more than 200 of our people currently working through apprenticeship programmes, we are looking forward to expanding that even further.”
While Higher Level and Degree Apprenticeships are changing the way employers view apprenticeships, the programme still offers invaluable employment opportunities for young people of all backgrounds seeking an alternative route into the career they want.
The Special Recognition Award was presented to Richard Carter, nominated by his employer Newcastle City Council who stated that he deserved to win as he succeeded in his apprenticeship against the odds; that his hard work and determination were true assets.
Kenny More, Head of Training at the Council said: “Newcastle City Council has been a supporter of Apprenticeships since 1989.
“We have found Newcastle College to be a very good partner for the delivery of our Horticulture Apprenticeships.
“The support the apprentices have had has been of the highest standard and we believe the College, as well as the placement at Condercum Road with Grounds, has had a huge influence on the progress Richard has made towards his achievements so far.
“Richard has overcome the barriers to learning he faced when first joining us at the City Council and we are hugely impressed with his attitude and application towards his apprenticeship studies.”
Newcastle College’s connections with local employers are key to the success of its apprenticeship programme, allowing it to develop courses which can address skill gaps and meet industry demand.
Last year the College was given its own Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP), making it uniquely placed to adapt its apprenticeships and create qualifications which provide the best solution for both apprentices and employers.
As the region strives to meet its target of 100,000 new jobs set by North East LEP, Marc McPake believes the College and its apprenticeship programme can help. “In line with LEP priorities, our job is to provide organisations with new recruits who have relevant skills and are work ready, whilst also helping them to upskill their existing workforce.
“This awards evening has shown how successful and valuable apprenticeships are in helping us to do this. It’s also given us an opportunity to highlight the hard work apprentices do and say thank you to our employer partners who have made the choice to invest in apprenticeships to help grow their business.”