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Our 2024 winners: what did the judges have to say?

Posted by Josie Miller on 22 May 2024

The Apprenticeship Guide Awards took place on 10 May 2024! The competition was fierce and out of the many entrants, only 23 went home with prizes.

Every winner was deserving, and the judges shared their comments on the night via the host, comedian and actress Lucy Porter. We thought we’d share them here for posterity.. and so that future entrants can have a look and see what their competition is up to as well!

 The winners

Apprentice of the year: Euan Wilcox from IBM UK

Euan Wilcox from IBM UK took home the prize on the night, winning from a strong shortlist of eight finalists. The judges said,

“Our independent judging panel commended the winner of the Apprentice of the Year Award on their strong nomination.

Their remarkable dedication and brilliance as an apprentice set them apart from their peers, making them a standout choice for this prestigious award.”


Best apprenticeship in automotive/transport: Go-Ahead London

Go-Ahead London won the award based on the strength of their apprenticeship training programme. The judges said,

“The winner of Best Apprenticeship in Automotive/Transport distinguished themself with the presence of excellent tutors and compelling testimonials.

By supporting a wide range of ages, and tailoring its curriculum to specific locations, this apprenticeship programme has increased the diversity of its participants and has a commendable track record in widening participation.”


Best apprenticeship in construction: Bagnalls

Bagnalls’ level 2 painting and decorating apprenticeship programme stood out among the other entrants! The judges said,

“This standout Apprenticeship in Construction impressed judges with their commitment to longevity, even in an entry-level apprenticeship programme.

With a strong focus on success and achievement rates, they’ve facilitated diverse career paths and increasing female participation. Judges hailed them as exemplifying best practices for SMEs in the apprenticeship space.”

Best apprenticeship in creative industries: Royal Opera House

The creative industries are notoriously heard to break into, and it was the Royal Opera House who took home the prize. The judges said,

“The winner of Best Apprenticeship in Creative Industries has a forward-thinking approach, considering the wider sector rather than solely focusing on their organisation.

Their proactive outreach initiatives, particularly in addressing neurodiversity and mentor training, make them stand out from their peers.”


Best apprenticeship in education: Realise

Realise took home the award for their early years practitioner apprenticeship, which stood out on the shortlist. The judging panel said,

“In a fiercely competitive category, the winner of the Best Apprenticeship in Education showcased commendable work in EDI.

Judges also noted their proactive approach to self-improvement and provision of ample extra support. Their impact is evidenced by their exceptionally high distinction levels.”


Best apprenticeship in energy & utilities: Centrica

Centrica’s dual fuel smart meter installer apprenticeship won the award for their industry sector. The judging panel said,

“The winner of Best Apprentice in Enegy & Utilities garnered attention for its bespoke support for apprentices, and robust feedback systems.

This exceptional nominee offers in-house resources, and a strong focus on mentorship, demonstrating a commitment to industry leadership beyond organisational boundaries.”

Best apprenticeship in engineering & manufacturing: Ontic

The winner of this category was Ontic for their levels 3 and 4 engineering technician apprenticeships. The judges said,

“The winner of Best Apprenticeship in Engineering & Manufacturing impressed judges with its clear structure and flexibility.

The winning programme seamlessly blends both technical and life skills and can clearly demonstrate the value of the programme to its learners, with additional learning from industry experts.”


Best apprenticeship in financial services: Aon

Aon’s school leaver programme impressed the judges in this hotly contested category. The judging panel said,

“In a highly competitive category, the winner of Best Apprenticeship in Financial Services impressed the judging panel with its commitment to widening participation and social mobility. Their trailblazing efforts are demonstrably increasing diversity within the sector.”


Best apprenticeship in hair & beauty: Kleek Apprenticeships

Kleek Apprenticeships took home the prize in the hair and beauty category. The judging panel said,

“The winner of Best Apprenticeship in Hair & Beauty distinguished itself with blended learning approaches and customised materials.

Notably, this programme has a remarkable track record of outstanding performance over almost two decades. A strong culture of internal promotion from the apprenticeship pool set it apart from the competition.”


Best apprenticeship in healthcare: University of Westminster

This category, sponsored by Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, had a strong and varied shortlist. The University of Westminster took home the prize for their level 6 healthcare science practitioner apprenticeship.

The judging panel noted,

“The standout recipient of Best Apprenticeship in Healthcare has excelled with its robust academic framework, comprehensive content based on strong methodology, and rigorous end-point assessment.

With over a hundred apprentices across numerous employers and excellent feedback data, this programme clearly stood out in the healthcare sector.”

Best apprenticeship in hospitality & tourism: British Airways

British Airways’ level 3 business professional apprenticeship programme was the winner on the night. Our independent panel of experts said,

“This exceptional programme is actively addressing skill gaps with its rotational offering, ensuring apprentices gain a wealth of experience.

With an impressive retention rate and a focus on long-term progression, it stood out for its commitment to apprentices’ development. Judges were also struck by the evident passion of the programme leaders.”


Best apprenticeship in IT: Softcat plc

This category was sponsored by BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT. Softcat plc took home the prize for their level 3 IT technical salesperson apprenticeship! The judges said,

“The winner of Best IT Apprenticeship caught the judging panel’s attention with its compelling rationale for engaging apprentices.

Offering apprentices ample opportunities beyond daily tasks and fostering strong interaction between on- and off-the-job training, this programme stood out as a leader in IT apprenticeships.”


Best apprenticeship in professional services: Weightmans

This was a hotly contested category, and the judges ultimately decided to award the prize to Weightmans for their level 7 solicitor apprenticeship. The panel said,

“A standout in a competitive category, the winner of the Best Apprenticeship in Professional Services has a long tenure which underscores its excellence. Their prioritisation of collaboration and support, including mental health support, early social mobility outreach, DEI champions, and mentor training, all emphasise development and diversity.

Networking initiatives with other law firms further enhance the apprenticeship experience.”


Best apprenticeship in public services: Police Education Consortium

Police Education Consortium took home the prize for their level 6 police constable degree apprenticeship! The judges said,

“The winner of Best Apprenticeship in Public Services distinguished itself with a strong community focus and a commitment to responsiveness, evident in its adaptation based on feedback from learners.

The programme enhances accessibility by adjusting part-time options and achieves commendable levels of attainment. Furthermore, its robust engagement with employers and promotion of teaching resources were noteworthy.”

Best apprenticeship in retail: Amazon

The shortlist for this category included two retail giants: Amazon and Superdrug. Ultimately, Amazon took home the prize for their broad range of apprenticeships. The judges said,

“The winner of Best Apprenticeship in Retail stands out because of its comprehensive offering of a broad range of apprenticeship standards, demonstrating a commitment to varied progression routes within the business.

Their focus on increasing diversity within the sector further distinguished them as leaders in retail apprenticeships.”


Best employer (large)

This category was sponsored by the Institute of Student Employers. The shortlist had some impressive entries, but the winner was Mitchells & Butlers. The judging panel said,

“In a fiercely contested category, this standout employer impressed with great apprenticeship progression within the organisation and a strong focus on diversity.

Judges noted their resilience in overcoming challenges, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, showcasing a commitment to apprenticeships as the organisation’s lifeblood in a challenging industry.”


Best employer (medium): Royal Shakespeare Company

It was Royal Shakespeare Company who took home the prize! The judges gave their reasoning:

“This exceptional employer distinguishes itself with a commitment to broader community engagement and support, including government outreach to disadvantaged schools, organising careers events, and collaborating with regional organisations.

Their employee benefits also stood out, ultimately aiding in this employer’s recruitment and retention efforts.”

Best employer (small): SURE Solutions

Congratulations, SURE Solutions! Here’s what the judges had to say:

“This standout employer has a proven track record of offering exceptional apprenticeship experiences and a passion which clearly shines through.

Their emphasis on community, including family in socials, fosters a close-knit culture. The rotational aspect to their apprenticeship programme provides valuable insights into potential career paths and is evidenced by their exceptional retention rate of apprentices.”


Best training provider: HIT Training

HIT Training stood out among the many entries for this category. The judges said,

“The winner of Best Training Provider stands out for its strong commitment to SEN work and outreach to marginalised groups.

They internally recognise apprentices with awards and reach a notable achievement rate for EHCP learners. Collaborations with professional bodies and alliances further strengthen their excellence.”


Best university for apprenticeships: London South Bank University

London South Bank University’s apprenticeships team were celebrating on the night as they took home the award! The judging panel said,

“The winner of Best University for Apprenticeships impressed the judging panel with its strong partnerships, particularly in fostering mental health support.

Their high achievement rates underscore their commitment to excellence in apprenticeship education.”


Excellence in training delivery: Firebrand Training

Firebrand Training took home the prize on the night, based on the strength of their flexibility and feedback. The judging panel said:

“The winner of the Excellence in Training Delivery category truly stood out with unbelievably positive feedback from learners, highlighting their exceptional flexibility.

The independent judging panel commended the breadth and innovation of their training delivery, which is especially outstanding relative to the size and resources of this organisation.”

Leadership in apprenticeship award: Craig Shaw from SURE Solutions

SURE Solutions took home not one but two prizes thanks to the leadership of Craig Shaw. The judging panel said,

“The winner of the Leadership in Apprenticeships award initiated the apprenticeship programme, fostering a strong culture of feedback and strategically centering apprenticeships in organisational strategy, even during the darkest times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their focus on gender, mature apprenticeships, and diverse learning styles fosters inclusivity. Described by the judging panel as someone who clearly practices what they preach, their leadership stood out as exemplary.”


Mentor of the year: Craig Murphy from Baltic Apprenticeships

Mentorship is incredibly important to apprenticeships as learners develop themselves at the earlier stages of their career. Craig Murphy from Baltic Apprenticeships stood out from the crowd and took home the award. The judges said,

“The Mentor of the Year winner is open to learning from their apprentices. Impressively high distinction and merit rates underscore this winner’s impact.

Learners overwhelmingly attribute their success to the Mentor of the Year winner, showcasing their profound influence on their learners.”

How are the entries judged for the Apprenticeship Guide Awards?

The Apprenticeship Guide Awards are judged by an independent panel of experts. These experts are highly regarded in the apprenticeships sector and brought their experience and expertise to the fore to handpick the shortlisted entries and the winners.

The panel included:

  • Head judge Lucy Hunte, national programme manager for NHS England
  • Siobhan Williams, business engagement manager for apprenticeships for UCAS
  • Joe Crossley, interim membership services director of AELP
  • Laura-Jane Rawlings MBE, CEO of Youth Employment UK
  • James Adeleke, CEO of Generation Success
  • Joanna Hughes, founder of Joanna Hughes Solicitor Apprenticeships
  • Patrick McCann, director of learning at Linklaters LLP
  • Daniel Sandford Smith, director of education programmes for Gatsby Charitable Foundation
  • Jessica Pieri, founder of The Careers People
  • Mike Thompson, managing partner at Gen Healthy Minds
  • Parisa Shirazi, director of standards for WorldSkills UK
  • Conor Cotton, managing director of Not Going to Uni
  • Anna Morrison CBE, founder of Amazing Apprenticeships

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