Express & Star

Sara is top apprentice at Ladder awards

An apprentice from Willenhall-based family business AF Blakemore took home the top award from the second Ladder for the Black Country Apprenticeship Awards.

The winners on stage at Bescot Stadium, Walsall, last night

Apprentice of the year winner Sara Fields was also the winner of the hospitality, retail, leisure and travel apprentice category at the awards dinner at Walsall FC's Bescot Stadium last night.

Sara was said to have consistently shown outstanding maturity and experience way beyond her position in the food retail and wholesaling company and has impressed management with her dedication to overcoming obstacles.

She also impressed judges through the incredible perseverance and bravery she showed in her personal life.

At work she successfully transformed a struggling store and streamlined operations to reduce financial losses. She then moved to another store and helped them improve results by motivating staff.

The awards were held in association with Walsall Council and the Express & Star and were hosted by comedian Aaron James.

There were 10 other winners on the night which also celebrated organisations and companies that drive aspiration and education through their apprenticeship programmes.

The Ladder for the Black Country campaign, supported by the newspaper, helps people take the first steps towards successful careers by opening doors to apprenticeship opportunities.

Councillor Adrian Andrew from Walsall Council highlighted the important role apprentices play in making the region a great place to live and work in.

The first award for apprentice of the year in construction and properties went to Ravel Wallace of Wolverhampton Homes who was said to have excelled throughout his apprenticeship programme with 100 per cent attendance and at all times had shown a passion for every activity and subject studied.

Apprentice of the year in engineering and manufacturing went to Lulu Loughlin, of Collins Aerospace in Wolverhampton who impressed by actively demonstrating his employer's values of trust,integrity, customer focus and innovation.

Scott Shenton, of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust was apprentice of the year in health education and care, who achieved a distinction in his team leader apprenticeship. He has saved hie employer £35,000 and trained over 1,000 members.

Apprentice of the year in professional services was Sairah Ali from Walsall Council who is described as one of the most hard-working learners the council has have ever had.

Despite the huge challenge of losing her younger brother last year she has excelled with her hard work and determination and has gone above and beyond for her employer.

Tadiwa Chikowore from Ginger6 Computers, Four Ashes, was apprentice of the year in tech, digital and creative industries who was said to have shown maturity beyond his years in terms of his exceptional creative skills and ideas generation.

The education and engagement award went to West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust, which has invested heavily to support its apprentices and help them be successful.

Large employer of the year was won by Wolverhampton pubs and restaurants group Marston’s for its growing company apprenticeship scheme

Medium employer of the year went to Doocey Group in Tipton and small employer winner was Penny Post Credit Union from Wolverhampton which has produced a scheme with clearly outlined pathways to progress its apprentices. which was illustrated by its 100 per cent retention rate.

Training provider of the year was won by Aldridge's In-Comm Training which has been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. The family-run business supports 700 apprentices and has trained 2,500 workers.

Category sponsors for the awards were Compass Group UK & Ireland, Wolverhampton Homes, Higgs LLP, SPV Special Projects, Busy Bees, Voestalpine Metsec, Silvaman Group, KUKA Systems, The Apprenticeship Works, National Grid and Halesowen College.

Associate sponsors were Performance Through People, In-Comm Training and Sandwell College.

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