More than 130 apprentices from across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent took centre stage for this year’s Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony.
The apprentices and their families were joined by local employers and training providers to celebrate the completion of their training in an event organised by Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council
Apprentices from engineering, education, retail and enterprise, business and management, health and care, and IT were all recognised for their achievements.
The ceremony was opened by David Frost CBE, chairman of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership. He said: “Encouraging people to take up apprenticeships is a key part of our strategy to bring more and better jobs, economic growth and prosperity to our region. The apprenticeships system gives local businesses a great opportunity to grow their own talented and skilled workforce by providing training tailored to their needs.
“It is right to celebrate the hard work and achievements of our apprentices and the contribution they are making to local businesses and communities with this special event.
“The graduation ceremony is also a great showcase to raise the profile of apprenticeships and the career paths that they can open up for people in all walks of life.”
Mark Winnington, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth at Staffordshire County Council met some of the graduates and congratulated them on their achievements.
he said: “Apprenticeships continue to play a vital role in bringing prosperity to Staffordshire and once again it’s great to see them being recognised for the huge contributions they are making.
“Increasing the number of apprenticeships to improve skills levels and to provide young people especially with the right training to get quality jobs remains our focus. We need adults and young people with the right skills to take up the better paid jobs of the future and they should all be very proud of their achievements.”
Among the apprentices celebrating was Matt Welsh, aged 20, a Level 3 apprentice with Staffordshire engineering firm KMF. Matt said: “I like working in engineering and have really enjoyed doing my apprenticeship. It’s a great way of learning a profession and valuable skills by actually doing the job. Plus you get paid at the same time, you’re not in debt after your course and often there’s a job waiting for you at the end of your training. I would definitely encourage young people to consider doing an apprenticeship.”
Gabrielle Williams, aged 22, from Sandyford, was celebrating gaining her NVQ Level two qualification in Painting and Decorating. Gabrielle has worked for three years for Fenton-based pigments manufacturer James M Brown Ltd and specialises in painting industrial machinery.
“There is a lot of science involved in it,” she said. “You have to select the right pigments to avoid causing a chemical reaction, and the paints need to stand up to high temperatures and wear and tear.
“Painting and decorating is still very male-dominated and some people said I wouldn’t last the course when I started. But I feel I have established my credentials by gaining my qualifications and people show me the same respect as anyone else at work. This is the job I’ve wanted to do ever since I was 13 and I enjoy it very much.”
Work colleagues Sharon Sutton and Kelly Keen from the Hanley office of the Royal National Institute for the Blind dressed their guide dogs Genie and Allie in matching graduation gowns for the awards ceremony.
Sharon, who lost her sight due to diabetes, was celebrating gaining qualifications in business administration and leadership and management. “Completing the apprenticeship has given me confidence and self-esteem,” she said. “I am using my new administration skills to support colleagues in the office and also training and developing the volunteers who work with us.”
Kelly, who gained a business administration qualification, added: “It is a big confidence boost and I hope I can encourage other visually impaired people to follow their dreams.”
Last year more than 8,000 people in Staffordshire started an apprenticeship, which is doubled the figure of five years ago. Despite the increase, more apprenticeship opportunities are needed to meet the demand from young people who are keen to work and learn and take the first step to a good career. More higher level apprenticeships are especially needed to meet demand for progression opportunities.
Now in its fourth year, the graduation ceremony continues to acknowledge the achievements of higher and advanced apprentices, helping promote apprenticeships on an equal footing as university as a route to success.
The graduation was held at the County Showground in Stafford on Wednesday 18 July. Further information on apprenticeships is available at www.apprenticeships.org
Picture caption: Veterinary nursing apprentice Laura Breakspear, who trained at South Staffordshire College, is pictured celebrating her award.