Hopes that Ladder for the Black Country Apprenticeship Awards will be annual event

It is hoped that the Ladder for the Black Country Apprenticeship Awards can be held every year following the success of the 2022 campaign.

Kevin Davis and Rob Colbourne OBE are founders of the Ladder Foundation
Kevin Davis and Rob Colbourne OBE are founders of the Ladder Foundation

The awards were run by the Ladder with the Express & Star and Wolverhampton Council, with the dinner and presentation at the Grand Station in Wolverhampton attended by 285 guests.

Kevin Davis, chairman of The Ladder Apprenticeship Foundation, said he was proud of how the Ladder campaign had created thousands of apprenticeships across the region to tackle the key issue of youth unemployment.

He praised the training providers that were doing great work in creating apprenticeships to fill vacancies in challenging times.

"They are still investing in resources to ensure apprentices and students receive outstanding training experiences," he added.

Overall winner Emma Hannon from Walsall Council

Mr Davis said he hoped the awards would be repeated annually to champion the best apprentices and training providers of the Black Country.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said the awards reflected the success of the apprenticeship programme across the Black Country.

He said the West Midlands Combined Authority's apprenticeship levy transfer programme had helped small businesses take on 1,000 apprentices in the Black Country in the last three years.

City of Wolverhampton Council was the headline sponsor for the awards and its leader, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said the city faced a huge challenge in reducing the high level of youth unemployment but was making progress.

He said the council's apprenticeships were "a fantastic opportunity" for young people to gain skills and work experience.

This year the council has taken on 111 apprentices aged 18 to 24 – an 80 per cent increase on the previous year.

"We are going to carry on investing in young people," said Councillor Brookfield.

"I am determined to carry on that direction of travel, to get more in education, training and employment," he enthused.

Overall winner Emma Hannon, from Walsall Council, on stage with other winners

Emma Hannon, aged 34, of Walsall Council, was announced as the winner of the overall apprentice of the year award.

Emma, who is blind in one eye and has only 17 per cent vision in the other, was helped to the stage by her husband Chris, Councillor Brookfield presented her with the trophy.

Emma, who was also the professional services apprentice of the year winner, said she would thoroughly recommend the apprenticeship route to young people.

"What has resulted from my apprenticeship is that I've been invited to be part of the Disabled Apprentice Network," she said.

"That's great because I want to help other disabled people."

Connor Smith, 20, of Wolverhampton Homes, who won the construction and property industries apprentice of the year award, said: "It feels great to be recognised."

Engineering and manufacturing winner Sophie Young receives her award

Sophie Young, 19, of Burntwood, works as a production engineer at PP Control and Automation in Cheslyn Hay. She won engineering and manufacturing apprentice of the years and said: "Doing an apprenticeship is one of the best decisions that I have ever made."

Walsall Council social work degree apprentice Chris Taylor, 36, said that winning health education and care apprentice of the year was a complete shock. "I owe a lot to my employer for giving me the opportunity and believing in me," said Chris who is married with three children.

Nathan Reeves, 23, won hospitality, retail, leisure and travel apprentice of the year. He works as a sales and customer experience manager at Currys, Wednesbury, and said: "I will always recommend doing an apprenticeship. You learn the job and you also learn about yourself."

The technology, digital and creative industries apprentice of the year Oliver Dutton, 23, of Stone's Throw Media, Wolverhampton, said: "It's fantastic to be recognised. Stone's Throw is a great place to work and learn with great people."

Stone's Throw also won the small employer of the year category. One of its founders, Matt Weston, said: "It was surprise to win, but we are really proud of this and of Ollie winning his individual award."

Walsall College's sales manager Corrie Squire said winning the education and engagement award was recognition of all the hard work being done at the college.

Large employer of the year was won by Sandwell Council and employment manager Suzanne Allen said: "Our apprentices are fundamental to the council's business now."

A&T Enclosures, of Brierley Hill, was medium employer of the year. Managing director Chris Taylor said the award came as it celebrated 30 years.

"We are really proud to win. It has been a real team effort," he added.

Rob Colbourne, chief executive of Walsall-based Performance Through People, which won training provider of the year, said: "This is a real tribute to our staff and how hard they work."

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News