‘Future problem solvers’ celebrated at AMRC Training Centre awards

“These apprentices are the future leaders of their businesses and their talents will change the region and change the world,” said new South Yorkshire Mayor, Oliver Coppard at the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre’s apprentice celebration evening.

The event, held at the university’s stunning Grade II-listed Firth Court, marked the first time in two years that apprentices, their employers, teachers and proud parents were able to come together in person to recognise their tremendous achievements, which are charging change for the future of industry. The special evening was dedicated to honouring the AMRC Training Centre Apprentice of the Year awards winners and finalists from both the 2020 and 2021 AMRC Training Centre Apprentice of the Year awards ceremonies who were not able to celebrate at the time due to the pandemic.

Host for the night was Steph McGovern, presenter of Channel 4’s daytime hit TV show Steph’s Packed Lunch, who is a former engineering apprentice of the event’s headline sponsor – iconic toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker. “Starting out as an apprentice myself and now being here to celebrate such a talented set of individuals and fellow apprentices doing what I think, is such a great and fulfilling career is very special,” said Steph.

“They are literally our future problem solvers and I think what they are doing is the best path for a successful career in industry. Despite the Covid setbacks, they have still smashed it and I can guarantee they will have a very rewarding career ahead of them.”

The event, held on the eve of International Women in Engineering day, saw Bethany Cousins, project engineer for the University of Sheffield AMRC, win the Apprentice of the Year award for 2020 and Kate Todd-Davis take the title for 2021. Kate also won “Degree Apprentice of the Year.”

Kate, a manufacturing engineering apprentice at global engineering giant Rolls-Royce, recently graduated from AMRC Training Centre with a first-class honours degree in Manufacturing Technology, having already completed a Level 2 NVQ in Fundamental Engineering, and is now working towards a Level 4 NVQ in Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing, both delivered by the Sunderland Engineering Training Association (SETA).

She summed up her double whammy of wins as being ‘overwhelming, humbling and unexpected’, adding: “To receive not just one award, but two is a massive achievement for me and is a great honour I did not expect.

“Being the overall winner is certainly my biggest career highlight to date and was a big shock considering there were so many strong and impressive applications. I hope it makes others consider an apprenticeship, gets more women in engineering and takes away the stigma it carries.”

Michelle White, apprentice development leader at Rolls-Royce, said Kate is ‘one to watch’, adding: “I am so proud of Kate’s achievements and as her apprenticeship is coming to an end, I believe now is the time that she will really fly within the company.

“She is destined for big things and I hope she remains to be a strong female ambassador for engineering and she proves that anything is achievable in a male-dominated industry.”

New Mayor of South Yorkshire Oliver Coppard, who is just eight weeks into his new role, was thrilled to be at the event and marked out the up-and-coming talent in the room as the change makers the world needs.

He said: “Sheffield is my home, I was born and raised here. I know the talent we possess in this region is equal to any industrial challenge we must overcome.

“We have a huge range of exciting and innovative companies in South Yorkshire, and the apprentices here are the future leaders of their businesses. Their talent will change the region and change the world. They are the ones who will get us to net zero.”

Nikki Jones, director of the AMRC Training Centre, praised the apprentices for their passion, adding: “Seeing our apprentices up on stage filled me with pride and reminded me why I chose to work for the AMRC Training Centre – it is them who make this literally the best job in the world.

“As a team we are committed to continue our efforts in pushing these individuals to be the best versions of themselves and to help them become our engineers of tomorrow. Without them, none of us would be here at this celebration event and I would like to congratulate each and every one of them for their hard work, dedication and commitment.”

Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “We are very proud of our apprentices and I am delighted that we were finally able to celebrate their achievements in person. They have an extraordinary impact on their employers – in many cases, improving processes, making them more sustainable or finding new and innovative ways to do things that save time and money.

“They are an important part of our University and we are pleased to provide both academic and vocational education of the very highest quality.”

This year’s festivities follows a virtual awards ceremony held in December, announced by Nuclear AMRC researcher and Great British Bake Off winner, Dr Rahul Mandal, who also attended the in-person event.

Now in its seventh year, the awards are a firm favourite in the AMRC Training Centre calendar and put a spotlight on both the apprentices and their employers who together are the brave and bold, breaking the mould to innovate, inspire and impact the way industry in the UK continues to evolve.

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