A head girl at a dressage and livery yard and a dairy herd manager took the top titles at a Reaseheath College awards ceremony which turned the spotlight on apprenticeships.

Laura Gunnell, 18, who works for Juwel Equestrian in Winsford, was crowned ‘Level 2 Apprentice of the Year’ while Sofy Ellison, 22, who manages a dairy herd at Marton Hall Farm, Macclesfield, for Grassland Farming Ltd. was awarded ‘Advanced Apprentice of the Year’.

Best animal Care Apprentice Sophie Anderson with her employer, Catherine Barrett, award sponsor Andy Smith and assessor Michaela Atterbury

The event marked the achievements of 157 apprentices and trainees who had gained their qualifications at the Nantwich, Cheshire, specialist college in the past year. It was held in celebration of the benefits which apprentices bring to businesses and to the national economy by increasing productivity and providing workforce succession.

Also selected for special awards were Best Animal Care Apprentice Sophie Anderson, who works for the Wuff Wash dog grooming parlour in Wallasey and Best  Level 3 Equine Apprentice Bethany Gerrard, Yard Manager at Denstone Stud, Uttoxeter. Laura Gunnell was Best Level 2 Equine Apprentice.

Peter Lewis, a groundsman at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, was awarded Best Horticulture Apprentice while Best Construction Apprentice went to James Lewis, who is employed by MSL Contracts, Stockport.

Sam Potts, Best Agriculture Apprentice, with assessor Liz Percival

Best Agricultural Apprentice was Sam Potts, an Assistant Unit Manager with Brookfields Farm, Siddington, Best Food Apprentice was Daniel Ryan, a trainee baker with Hurst Village Bakery, Wirral, and Best Engineering Apprentice was Mark Smith, a trainee food technician with Aimia Foods Ltd, Warrington.

Best Construction Plant Maintenance Apprentice was Harry Hughes, who works for Keltbray Aspire Ltd., Crewe, while Alex Bebbington, a chandlery apprentice at Church Minshull Aqueduct Marina, took the title of Best Vehicle Parts Apprentice.

Kristian Yoxall, a vehicle technician at Astbury Garage, Congleton, received a Certificate of Excellence in Motor Vehicle and Light Vehicle Maintenance.

Training managers and apprentices from Employer of the Year Bombardier Transportation

‘Employer of the Year’ went to Bombardier Transportation of Crewe, which has 14 apprentices currently enrolled at Reaseheath.

Guest speakers were Craig Hallworth of Hallworth Construction, Northwich, whose apprentices have been attending Reaseheath for the past 11 years, and Katie Stanley, an agriculturist who was last year’s Advanced Apprentice of the Year.

Opening the ceremony, Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David revealed that The Reaseheath Group, which includes DART Training in Derbyshire, was the largest provider of land-based apprenticeships in the country. The college currently has 1,500 apprentices in training and has successful completion rates which are more than 10 percent above the national average.

Successful partnerships had been built with all sizes of companies, from multi-nationals to micro businesses, and all were hugely important both as clients of Reaseheath and for their contribution to the national economy.

Emphasising that apprentices had proved that they were dedicated and hardworking, as they were working while also learning new knowledge and skills, Meredydd said: “An apprenticeship is a wonderful qualification which has been identified as the training of choice by companies.

“Employers say they value apprenticeships because they produce skilled, qualified and capable people who are work ready. It is good to see the Government has made them a national priority by adopting a new funding approach.”

The awards were announced by Christine Middleton, Reaseheath Training Business Development Team Leader.

More information for prospective apprentices and employers can be found here.