Engineering apprentice Tia Till, of Shiftec, Willenhall, beat off competition from more than 100 young people and mature workers to win both engineering and manufacturing technologies and the outstanding learner of the year awards, impressing judges with her manufacturing performance and desire to be the best in her field.
She was joined on stage by Libby Hastings of UK Architectural Antiques, Rugeley, who was successful in the business support and most improved learner categories.
The 20-year-old has overcome anxiety and low confidence to develop all the skills she needs to run the back office, a role she feels will make her mother proud.
Continuing the ‘girl power’ theme for the evening were Wolverhampton-based Collins Aerospace’s Lucy Trow-Gladston (leadership and management) and Stormking’s Emma Devitt (continuous improvement), taking the plaudits for how they promote apprenticeships at every opportunity and the positive difference they make on the shopfloor.
Bekki Phillips, chief operating officer at Aldridge-based In-Comm Training, commented: “We’ve been working hard to get more girls involved in engineering and manufacturing…well tonight we’ve started to see the initial results of this and the creation of some real stars of the future.
“It has been over two years since we last held our awards, so it was great just to get everyone back in a room together to celebrate everything that is good about vocational learning. Our apprentices, our mentors, our employers and, importantly, the trainers who equip our finalists with the skills they need to move forward.”
She continued: “Covid-19 has been really tough for every sector and companies could have pulled back on funding apprenticeships or upskilling. That would have been the easy, but wrong choice and I’m delighted that so many firms have remained committed to training in a bid to bridge skills gaps and, in more recent times, to solve a well-documented labour shortage.
“We have responded by delivering digitally throughout the pandemic and, more recently, adopting a blended approach to training - all geared towards minimising the impact on learners. Investment has also continued with new equipment at Aldridge and the move of the MCMT to a new facility in Telford, just in time for the launch of the Marches element of the Black Country and& Marches Institute of Technology in December.”
Other winners included David Lunn, of WH Tildesley, Willenhall, ambassador of the year; Nant Group, Bilston, small employer of the year and Collins Aerospace, large employer of the year.
Highly commended in business support was Charlotte Rickhuss of Staysafe, Bridgnorth and in continuous improvement, Ian Hill of Bridgnorth Aluminium.
The evening also saw the life of Geoff Jones, the former Chairman of In-Comm Training, celebrated in front of his family, friends and former work colleagues.
‘Big Un’, as he was affectionately known, played a key role in the growth of the business after he and lifelong friend Colin Mills bought it in 1997.
Under their stewardship, the company has developed into one of the UK’s leading independent training providers, supporting more 750 apprentices and delivering 2,000 courses every year.
Gareth Jones, managing director of In-Comm Training, was delighted with how the celebrations went: “Dad loved these awards; the fact we all got together to promote and recognise vocational learning, sharing stories of how young people have made a difference or how older workers had retrained to learn a new skill. The conversations, the banter, the laughs, he loved it all.
“That’s why we thought what better way to remember Dad than with 400 other people, who share his passion for Apprenticeships, training and, importantly, manufacturing.
“It is quite fitting that this has been our biggest ever awards evening and I feel that events like this should act as a real call to arms, showcasing the strength and brilliance of our industry and our apprenticeships, whilst giving people the chance to see what a career in our amazing sector looks like.”