More than 120 apprentices from across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent have attended a graduation ceremony to celebrate the completion of their apprenticeships.
The apprentices and their families were joined by local employers and training providers at the County Showground in Stafford on Wednesday (13 July) to celebrate their achievements.
Now in its second year, the graduation ceremony acknowledges the achievements of higher and advanced apprentices putting apprenticeships on an equal footing with a university as a route to success.
Apprentices from different occupations including, engineering, education, retail and enterprise, business and management, health and social care, and IT were recognised for their achievements.
David Frost CBE, chairman of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Local Enterprise Partnership said: “Apprenticeships are a key focus of our work to bring growth and prosperity to our region and are giving many of our businesses the opportunity to grow their own talented and skilled workforce.
“It is only 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.
“I offer all the apprentices my very hearty congratulations on their achievements.”
Councillor Ben Adams, Cabinet Member for Learning and Skills at Staffordshire County Council also congratulated the apprentices at the graduation.
He said: “Increasing the number of apprenticeships and providing young people especially with the right training to get quality jobs remains our focus and is key to our plans to grow Staffordshire’s economy”
“Apprenticeships play just as important a role as graduates in growing our economy and I’m delighted to see our apprentices receiving the same recognition and have their day on the stage. I would also like to congratulate those employers who have taken on an apprentice and are now benefiting from the fantastic contributions that apprenticeships are bringing to their companies.”
Among the business representatives cheering on their apprentices was Jenny Conlon, training manager at precision sheet metal manufacturers KMF, of Newcastle-under-Lyme.
“In a nutshell, these apprentices are the future of our business,” she said. “We need young people trained in the newest, developing technologies to keep us ahead of the game.
“If they have the ability we will support them in their studies, up to foundation degree level and beyond.”
KMF currently employs 30 apprentices, working while studying for qualifications in areas ranging from engineering technology to sales.
A guest speaker at the event was Becci Bryant, chief officer of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, which had 11 apprentices at this year’s graduation. The Staffordshire fire service launched its apprenticeships programme in 2010 and has so far trained 81 apprentices in areas ranging from operational firefighting to business administration. Next year it is to start offering apprenticeships at Masters degree level and has also been selected to develop a new apprenticeships framework for fire services across the country.
“Apprenticeships are a fantastic way of accessing education combined with work,” Ms Bryant said. “They are really important to us in developing a highly skilled and motivated workforce, and I would like to pay tribute to the hard work, commitment and dedication of all the apprentices here today.”
The other guest speaker was Kevin Davis, chairman of the Black Country and Staffordshire Apprenticeship Ladder campaigns, who said apprenticeships were an increasingly “important and viable choice” for young people.
“You are getting bespoke, on-the-job training,” he told the apprentices. “You are a tribute to the fact that apprenticeships do work, and this achievement is not the end of your journey – it’s onwards and upwards from here.”
Last year more than 11,000 people started an apprenticeship in the county, nearly double the figure of five years ago. And the number of higher level apprentices continues to grow, along with the number of new apprenticeships in high-tech engineering which is a rapidly growing sector.
Picture caption: Staffordshire’s chief fire officer Becci Morgan and senior colleagues are pictured with the service’s successful apprentices celebrating their graduation. Picture courtesy of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.