Pole position for Rolls-Royce apprentice Kate

‘The future of the business and a great asset to the company’, is how engineer-in-training Kate Todd-Davis was described by employer Rolls-Royce after being crowned AMRC Training Centre Apprentice of the Year.

Kate, a manufacturing engineering apprentice at global engineering giant Rolls-Royce, was announced as the 2021 champion by captain of industry and chairman of Stanley Black & Decker Sir George Buckley, at a virtual celebration on December 10.

She was also named ‘degree apprentice of the year’ at the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre awards – giving the 21-year-old a double victory. As part of her prize, Kate will be zooming off to the F1 Silverstone Grand Prix in July and will get to visit the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking with the other awards finalists.

Kate’s work, which is expected to save Rolls-Royce an estimated £180,000 over the next three years, involves introducing new parts at its Washington-facility; updating manufacturing processes; creating technical documents; and analysing part measures data to achieve process improvements.

The young apprentice says she was ‘overwhelmed’ by both award wins.

“To have received the ‘degree apprentice of the year’ award was an honour in itself – but to have also received the overall ‘apprentice of the year’ award is my biggest achievement so far,” said Kate. “I am so overwhelmed but grateful for both awards and for all of the guidance from the AMRC over the last three years.

“I couldn’t believe it when I found out that I’d won tickets to the Silverstone Grand Prix, I love F1 and can’t wait to go to that and to be given a tour of the McLaren Technology Centre – both trips will be amazing.”

Michelle White, apprentice development leader at Rolls-Royce, said: “We’re incredibly proud of Kate and both of these awards are truly well deserved. She is a valued member of the manufacturing engineering team at the Rolls-Royce Washington UK site and has been involved in many projects and seeks out where value can be added.

“During this difficult time for most businesses, every cost-cutting measure is greatly appreciated. The amount of money she has saved the company allows the business to be more cost effective and resilient.

“Kate has a very bright future within Rolls-Royce, she is the future of the business and is a great asset to the company. I am looking forward to seeing what she achieves.”

Kate 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).

“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me over the last few years from Rolls-Royce, the AMRC Training Centre and SETA,” Kate said. “The mentors I have had have been so inspirational and have continually allowed me to strive to do my best.”

Kate, who began working for Rolls-Royce in September 2018, said her most notable work achievement to date has been helping her company to save tens of thousands of pounds after being tasked with managing the implementation of a rounding rule for measured features, eradicating some dimensional non-conformance.

By extrapolating information from Red-Amber-Green (RAG) chart data, she predicted the huge savings for seven parts. It has now been authorised for use in production and is expected to be applied to all parts in the future, generating further savings.

“Though I primarily led this project, it wouldn’t have been possible without the guidance of my managers and I learned so much during the time I spent completing it,” added Kate.

And for anyone considering engineering as their career, she has some sound advice.

“I’d say try and get as much exposure to the industry as you can so that you can understand first-hand what a fantastic industry it is to work in. The apprenticeship route has been critical to my success and I think that apprenticeships are a worthwhile investment for both employers and apprentices.”

To be named the AMRC Training Centre’s top apprentice for 2021 brings to a close a triumphant year for Kate who also won ‘degree apprentice of the year’ for the North East region in the National Apprentice Awards in October. She’s also making her mark as an ambassador for young female apprentices, regularly attending Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) meetings and has been asked to join the North East Young Apprentice Ambassador Network (YANN).

Looking to the future, Kate wants to progress her career at Rolls-Royce and is looking to complete a master’s degree as well as continuing to champion engineering to others.

This year’s judging panel, which included AMRC Training Centre leads and representatives from award sponsors including headliner Stanley Black & Decker, Close Brothers and Boeing to name a few, said Kate was an inspirational role model to all future and current engineers and had achieved consistently good grades, impressed her employer and was thought to be more than a worthy winner for this year’s award.

Commenting on Kate’s win, Nikki Jones, director of the AMRC Training Centre, said: “Kate is a shining example of what an apprentice can achieve. She is academically and practically outstanding. A true ambassador for apprenticeships, with a real community spirit, helping other apprentices within her organisation. She excels in everything she does and is having a real positive impact on her organisation.”

Other winners at this year’s annual awards were:

– Rising Star: Ben Wright of Tribosonics, sponsored by C&S Fabrications;

– Apprenticeship Champion: Rebecca Wright of University of Sheffield AMRC, sponsored by the

– Manufacturing Technologies Association;

-Advanced Apprentice: Gabriella Spencer of Stanley Black & Decker, sponsored by Sandvik Coromant;

– Highly commended Advanced Apprentice: Samuel Thomas Redgrave of Niftylift, sponsored by Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence;

– HNC & Higher Apprentice: Jordan Clayton of Polypipe Building Products, sponsored by Nikken;

– Highly commended HNC & Higher Apprentice: Louise Brammer of Street Cranexpress, sponsored by Hallam FM;

– Degree Apprentice: Kate Todd-Davis of Rolls-Royce, sponsored by Close Brothers;

– Highly commended Degree Apprentice: Sean Feather of FIRMA Engineering Ltd, sponsored by Boeing;

– Special Recognition Award: Liam Shaw, of Polypipe Building Products, sponsored by Machines4Sale News.

Nikki heaped praise on the finalists and their peers, and said despite on-going work struggles with Covid this year, apprentices had stepped up to prove the benefits they bring to industry.

“It has been a pleasure to see our apprentices thrive and strive for the best with their work throughout this difficult year,” she added. “Despite the added pressures of Covid lockdowns, digital working and adjusting to social distancing rules, all of our apprentices have continued to get the best out of their learning – and here at the training centre, we are very proud of them all.

“I would like to say a massive congratulations to all of our 2021 finalists and winners.”

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