January 18th 2018 saw the United Kingdoms best apprentice employers and apprentices attend the National Apprentice Awards at the wonderful Grovesnor House Hotel in London.

It was the 14th year the National Apprentice Service have recognised employers and apprentices in this way, and It was a celebration of such an important element of our business that countless others across the country are a part of.

The awards ceremony was a mix of inspiring young people recounting their history and Apprentice employers who see and invest in the value of apprenticeships. Bury St Edmunds being one of them.

After winning the title of Best Newcomer SME Apprentice Employer at the regional awards back in October, we were granted progression to national judging where we were chosen as a national finalist along with 2 other employers.

I had decided to make this a team affair inviting my first 2 apprentices who started with me on day 1 Alex and Becky. Along with them my ever supportive wife Serena, my Business Coach Suzanne Macdonald-Carr of BCMT and Sarah Jermy from Keits who provides the training support within our apprenticeship programme. All have helped me in different ways to arrive where we are today, and i wanted to share the night with them.

The Venue

We drove down together to London mid afternoon arriving at the venue just before 6pm.

We had a quick pre-awards drink before making our way to the room where the event was being hosted.

As we entered, we quickly realised the scale and sense of achievement for reaching such an awards ceremony. Decorated wonderfully, with camera’s flashing away the setting was brilliant.

We posed for photos and mingled with the other finalists before being called for the ceremony to begin.

The Awards – Top 100 Apprentice Employers

We heard some incredibly inspiring stories from previous apprentices. They spoke so eloquently and confidently you could almost forget they were young apprentices and not seasoned awards hosts.

The ceremony flew by and before we knew it we had been announced as a Centrica Top 100 Apprentice Employer  and we as a team were over the moon!

The list had some huge established companies included, such as Starbucks, Lloyds Banking Group and our very own local friends Greene King. So this felt like a huge deal and quite an honour. It was a moment of realisation of what we had achieved in only 13 months of operation.

The Awards – Apprentice Awards

Following the Top 100, the awards honoured business and apprentices from throughout the country from Small Employers to Macro, from Apprentice Champions to Higher / Degree level Apprentices.

Our category was announced – Newcomer SME of the Year 2017. The definition of which was new companies (less than 18 months old) with 1-249 employees. With only 4 employees we felt quite a bit smaller than the competition!

Videos of the finalists were shown , and a short clip of us in action was played much to the joy of the audience, and I think probably the best reaction of the night.

The winner was announced as Lander Automotive Ltd, and engineering company with an impressive apprenticeship programme.

Following the announcement, we were also called as Highly Commended in our category, so the minor disappointment of not winning didn’t last long and I went to the stage to collect our award.

It was a wonderful evening. And I’m so proud to be associated with Apprenticeships. We will continue to invest in people to help our business grow and support the National Apprenticeship Service where we can in promoting the value and opportunities apprenticeships offer.

Jon