The elite of the country’s apprentice employers, providers and sector leaders were honoured at the FE Week-AELP Annual Apprenticeship Conference Awards on Thursday.

Twenty-three winners across different apprenticeship routes were recognised, and there were additionally awards for SEND, diversity, special recognition, outstanding contribution, promoting apprenticeships and overall apprentice provider and employer awards.

Shane Mann, awards organiser and managing director of FE Week publisher Lsect, said: “The quality of the overwhelming number of applications from across the sector was, as always, very high.

“But tonight’s awards recognised and celebrated the very best work by apprentice employers and providers.

“I would like to congratulate all the winners and thank our amazing judging panel, sponsors and partners. We couldn’t have done it without them.”


Providers have been ‘beacons’ through ‘extraordinary year’

Acacia Training was named apprentice provider of the year, while the large apprentice employer of the year gong went to Merseyside Police, with Pendennis Shipyard Ltd being handed the small employer honour.

The employer, provider and individual awards for outstanding contribution to the development of apprenticeships went to Health Education England, Bridgwater & Taunton College, and Performance Through People Training chief executive Rob Colbourne, respectively.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Jane Hickie, who co-hosted the event with Mann, said in this “extraordinary year,” she liked to think: “Our award winners have all been beacons of best practice throughout the pandemic.

“Means of training delivery have had to change, often with limited or no additional funding support, and yet we have a new generation of apprentices stepping into the skilled vacancies that employers are keen to fill.

“In my view, this year’s winners are truly exceptional.”

Special recognition awards were handed to apprentice advocate Anthony Impey and Coca-Cola European Partners HR business partner Sharon Blyfield.

Impey, a serial entrepreneur, has “ploughed and invested his transformative abilities into the centre of the apprenticeship and skills sector,” said Mann.

He has served as apprenticeship policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses and as chair of the government’s Apprenticeship Stakeholder Board.

That is in addition to implementing local apprenticeship strategies, including his time as chair of the GLA Apprenticeship Advisory Board. He also led the development of Investors in People’s apprenticeship quality mark.

Blyfield, an AELP board member, made “outstanding efforts” with Coca-Cola Europacific Partners during the pandemic “to minimise the negative impact on the prospects of young people, especially among under-represented groups,” Hickie said.

She pushed ahead with business outreach programmes and creating a virtual application masterclass video for the Sutton Trust’s summer work experience programme.

Blyfield also “spearheaded” a drive on equality, diversity and inclusion among AELP’s members.


Awards were judged by ex-ministers and sector leaders

The judges for the awards included Hickie, former skills minister Anne Milton, UCAS’ director of strategy John Cope, Health Education England’s national programme manager for apprenticeships Jane Hadfield, and City & Guilds’ director of policy Patrick Craven.

The event was run in partnership with VTCT, BCS the Chartered Institute for IT, One File, Skills and Education Group, City & Guilds, and ILM.

The virtual Annual Apprenticeship Conference was held in April, where the award nominations were announced by impressionist Rory Bremner.

A gala dinner where the awards would be presented had been planned for today, but this had to be cancelled due to Covid regulations.


Watch the ceremony here:

The full list of AAC Apprenticeship Awards winners:

  • Special recognition awards: Anthony Impey MBE and Sharon Blyfield
  • Agriculture, environmental and animal care apprenticeship provider of the year: Myerscough College
  • Business and administration apprenticeship provider of the year: Abingdon & Witney College
  • Care services apprenticeship provider of the year: Paragon Skills
  • Catering and hospitality apprenticeship provider of the year: Bournemouth and Poole College
  • Construction apprenticeship provider of the year: Kirklees College
  • Digital apprenticeship provider of the year: Gower College Swansea
  • Education and childcare apprenticeship provider of the year: Exeter College
  • Engineering and manufacturing apprenticeship provider of the year: Gower College Swansea
  • Hair and beauty apprenticeship provider of the year: London Hairdressing Apprenticeship Academy
  • Health and science apprenticeship provider of the year: Skills Training UK
  • Legal, finance and accounting apprenticeship provider of the year: Workpays
  • Sales, marketing, procurement apprenticeship provider of the year: Lifetime Training
  • Transport and logistics apprenticeship provider of the year: Performance Through People Training
  • Apprenticeship diversity award: Coach Core Foundation
  • SEND apprenticeship champion award: Devon County Council
  • Promoting apprenticeships campaign of the year: Weston College
  • Outstanding contribution to the development of apprenticeships:
    • Employer: Health Education England
    • Provider: Bridgwater & Taunton College
    • Individual: Rob Colbourne, CEO, Performance Through People Training
  • Apprentice employer of the year:
    • Large employer: Merseyside Police
    • Small employer: Pendennis Shipyard Ltd
  • Apprenticeship provider of the year: Acacia Training

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