Integrated Water Services’ Laura Thacker was named as the ‘Most Improved Learner of the Year’ having overcome several setbacks to develop her skills and excel in her apprenticeship, whilst Maria Collins from IMI Precision (Norgren) secured the ‘Outstanding Learner of the Year and Peter Wood Memorial’ title.

The latter impressed an industry-led judging panel with her level of dedication to work and the way she has employed excellent management and organisational skills to take control and successfully complete projects.

They were joined on stage by Caterpillar Shrewsbury’s Lauren Ball, who is one of the first apprentices in the country to be trained at the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology in Bridgnorth.

Despite being the only female in her first cohort, the ‘Learner of the Year In-Comm Academies Engineering’ has shown a real appetite for new challenges and often leads from the front, carrying out every job to the best of her ability.

Bekki Phillips, joint MD at In-Comm Training, said: “There has been a lot of media debate about the effectiveness of the ‘Apprenticeship Levy’, but one thing that is not in question is the important role we all play in developing the engineers of the future.

“Apprenticeships offer a fantastic way for companies to develop their own staff and for young people to become competent craft and technical engineers by being exposed to all levels of education and a host of practical scenarios.

She continued: “If they go all the way to Degree level through this route, they’ll also save £100,000 on average when compared to people going to University. The In-Comm Training Awards are designed to showcase the best vocational learners in the Midlands, highlighting individuals who have gone above and beyond, mentors that have given blood, sweat and tears in developing their younger members of staff and employers who have put their money where their mouths are.”

“This year will be remembered for girl power, with our two main prizes going to Laura and Maria, with Lauren also picking up one of the awards. These girls are fantastic ambassadors for women in engineering and will go on to have great careers in industry.”

Other winners at the In-Comm Awards 2018 included:

Learner of the Year - Business Support:Jack Shakespeare (Ames Group)
Learner of the Year – Supervisory Management:Marc Edwards (Walsall Pressings)
Learner of the Year – Continuous Improvement:Lloyd Scarsbrook (CPE Pressure Vessels)
Learner of the Year – Engineering & Manufacturing Technologies:Maria Collins (IMI Precision)
Ambassador of the Year:Keith Collins (Castings Plc)

Over 350 people attended the Awards, held for the first time at the ICC in Birmingham. The focus was also on companies, with Birmingham-based precision metal stamping specialist Brandauer taking the ‘Employer of the Year’ title for the way it has made apprentices more than 15% of its total workforce, helping it to retain specialist skills and reduce the average age of staff to just 44 in the process.