Watch: Winners revealed at the inaugural Edinburgh Apprenticeship Awards
With the Scottish Government’s Youth Employment Strategy ambition to reach 30,000 apprenticeship starts annually, apprenticeship schemes have fast become a route to future employment for thousands of school leavers across the country.
While a glittering awards ceremony held by the Edinburgh Evening News to celebrate the Capital’s young talent was set to take place in June last year, the Covid-19 pandemic put a hold on all events and group celebrations.
But instead of postponing the inaugural Edinburgh Apprenticeship Awards any longer, a virtual awards ceremony was held to unveil a swathe of deserving winners.
Hosted by Scottish broadcast royalty and Forth One presenter Arlene Stuart and sponsored by Openreach, the awards celebrated the achievements of talented youngsters who have excelled at the start of their careers and the companies which are supporting, training and championing them.
More than 4,000 people tuned in to watch the awards, which took place on Thursday afternoon.
The coveted prize was the Edinburgh Apprentice of the Year honour, for which all young apprentices who were shortlisted in each category were nominated.
Reviewing the entries, judges looked for the most exceptional contribution an individual had made throughout their apprenticeship, showing their commitment and attitude to the role.
And the award was presented to Leonardo’s Lewis Liston – a highly-regarded manufacturing technical apprentice at the engineering company who has shown a dedication and passion for engineering and STEM in his early career.
A total of 11 awards were handed out to Edinburgh’s top apprentices and training providers.
Ms Stuart said: “We are celebrating our best new talent in Edinburgh, those who are maybe just starting out on their careers paths, the new workforce, the future as well as all of the companies and training providers that are helping our Edinburgh apprentices along the way.”
The Diversity and Inclusion programme award, for which the judging panel looked for excellent commitment to actively develop an inclusive workplace for apprenticeships, was presented to Standard Life Aberdeen.
The second award announced on the day was for Edinburgh’s top Engineering/Manufacturing and Construction Apprentice, with judges looking at the contribution the individual had made throughout their apprenticeship, showing their commitment and attitude to the role.
The honour went to Fraser Heigh of Mott MacDonald Ltd, who has always had an interest in how everyday things work and now examines bridges for a living. A keen sportsperson, Mr Heigh represents Scotland in international youth field hockey.
The Health and Public Service Apprentice of the Year was awarded next and again the judges looked at the contribution the individual had made throughout their apprenticeship to show their commitment and attitude to the role.
It was awarded to Dorota Wojtkiewicz, who works at the health and social care partnership Home Care
Ms Wojtkiewicz has been doing her Social Services and Healthcare Modern Apprenticeship SCQF level six for two years and is based in the homecare team in the south west locality.
Also highly commended in the category was the City of Edinburgh Council’s Connor Burt and Erin McKenzie.
The top prize for the Large Business Apprentice Employer award was given to Leonardo – a world leader in laser and radar technologies.
The award for Graduate Apprentice of the Year was presented to Jessica Morris of the City of Edinburgh Council. Ms Morris was praised for demonstrating a sharp progression to become one of the future stars of the Building Standards profession.
On a daily basis, judges said she demonstrated a high standard of professionalism, efficient management of time and workload, and that she showcased a care for helping her customers by providing an exemplary standard of service.
Also highly commended in the category was Stefania Iulia Sandu from PwC UK.
Alongside studies at the University of Edinburgh, work placements with PwC and a role as a resident assistant, Ms Sandu is a committee member of the Romanian Society within Edinburgh University Students' Association in 2019/20.
The Mentor of the Year award was given to an individual who has had a positive impact on the personal and professional development of their apprentices and inspired them in the first steps in their careers. The gong went to Paul Scott, of Redbuild Ltd, whose current apprentices count on him as a first point of contact when they need instruction and information on site.
The nomination said Mr Scott’s apprentices were not afraid to ask him questions. Mr Scott was also praised for being sympathetic to queries and helping apprentices calmly and supportively.
Mr Burt – already highly commended in the Health and Public Service Apprentice of the Year category – scooped his second nod of the day when he took the top prize for Modern Apprentice of the Year.
Modern apprenticeships are designed to learn on the job whilst gaining a qualification accredited by the SQA. There is a focus on imparting key employability skills, as well as more specific training for a job within a company.
The Apprentice Awards’ Rising Star was named as Dylan Coyle from Warmworks Scotland.
He joined the company, which aims to tackle fuel poverty, two years ago after completing his modern apprenticeship in business administration. Mr Coyle has gone on to become a regional customer service officer and a valued team member.
Also highly commended in the category was Leonardo’s Lewis Liston, who was praised for exceeding all expectations and showing a commitment and determination to his career in engineering through his apprenticeship.
SME Apprentice Employer of the Year was awarded to JAD Joinery Ltd – a multi-accredited contractor – providing joinery expertise to the new housing, commercial, health, education, leisure and retail sectors.
The Training Provider/Programme of the Year award went to Edinburgh College, which works with more than 150 employers to deliver apprenticeships
Edinburgh Evening News deputy print editor Jill Buchanan said: “I’m delighted that we have been able to go ahead inviting entries, [with the] judging process and this award ceremony to the virtual world that many of us spend so much of our working day in.
“The last 12 months have been incredibly difficult for everyone in all walks of life, which gives a special significance to these awards which we are handing over.
“All of our finalists would be worthy winners and it was an incredibly difficult job to decide on who would take the top prize in each category, as well as selecting our Edinburgh Apprentice of the Year.”
Ms Buchanan added: "Apprenticeships have a key role in Edinburgh’s economic recovery from the pandemic. They will help our businesses meet skills gaps and adapt to changing needs, but most importantly they will give our young people a head start on their employment journey.”
Fraser Rowberry, director of Openreach, said: “We’ve been thrilled with the amazing calibre of entries. As one of Scotland’s biggest employers of apprentices, we know just how much you bring to the table.
“I’m certain all of our brilliant nominees will go on to great things.
"It’s been a tough year for everyone, so it’s great to celebrate some outstanding success stories. We’re also proud to recognise some of the firms and organisations which have been firmly committed to apprenticeships throughout the pandemic.”
Scottish business, work and skills minister Jamie Hepburn added: “I want to commend each and every one of you who have shown resilience throughout the pandemic.
“The pandemic is already having a disproportionate economic effect on young people and threatens the reduced job opportunity just as they are starting out on their careers.
“That's why one of our key commitments is to introduce the young person's guarantee, which will ensure that in two years everyone aged 16-24 will have the opportunity to study, take up an apprenticeship job or work experience, or participate in formal volunteering.
“Our guarantee will be driven by the needs of young people matched by the needs of employers.
“I’d like to personally congratulate all of the finalists and wish them the best of luck in their categories and future careers. In the Scottish Government, we are right behind you and will do everything we can to support apprentices and young people across the country to ensure that you have in place what you need to succeed."