A high flying dairy apprentice who now plays a leading role in training a UK wide team took top honours at an apprenticeship awards ceremony held at Reaseheath College in Nantwich.

Sharlene Harrison, Technical and Development Officer for Muller UK & Ireland Group, was crowned Outstanding Apprentice of the Year at the glittering event, held last Thursday during National Apprenticeship Week.

As well as taking the top title, Sharlene was also selected as Higher Level Apprentice of the Year for successfully combining her studies with a fulfilling full-time role which involves training both colleagues and customers of the leading dairy brand.

Already the holder of two previous food science related degrees, Sharlene completed a Foundation Degree in Food Technology and Management as a student on Reaseheath’s unique Eden higher level apprenticeship programme. This is a bespoke education initiative supported by leading dairy companies which upskills promising professionals in the industry.

An elated Sharlene, who received both awards in front of an audience of employers, friends and family, said: “This apprenticeship has meant a lot to me both personally and professionally.

“Although I could have got a job with the academic degrees I already had, I wanted to develop competence in the actual application of food science. Studying hands-on in Reaseheath’s industry standard food production halls with the support of dairy specialists gave me a unique opportunity to gain the practical understanding I needed to take my career forward. I now have the opportunity to work nationwide across Muller’s dairies; delivering training, leading project work and developing our new team of Dairy technology apprentices within Muller.”

The Outstanding Apprentice of the Year award was sponsored by construction plant company CRJ.

Runners up for the Higher Level Apprentice of the Year award, which was sponsored by Bentley Motors, were Mark White, a dairy technologist with Saputo in Davidstow, and Sophie Ridgeway, a learning skills tutor at Reaseheath College.

The Level 3 Apprentice of the Year, sponsored by Encirc, was Iwona Cawa, a Crop Supervisor with APS Salads, The company is the UK’s leading supplier of British tomatoes to the high street.

Iwona said: “Doing an apprenticeship has given me a greater understanding of why I carry out my job in a certain way. Greater knowledge has also given me the ability to come up with ideas which may take the business forward.

APS Operations Manager Chris Baldwin said: “This independent endorsement from Reaseheath College confirms just how good an employee Iwona is. She is an inspiration to the next generation and we are very proud of her.”

Level 3 finalists were Nadine Brooks, a veterinary nurse with Congleton Vets, and Oliver Capel, a crop technician with APS Salads.

The Level 2 Apprentice of the Year award, sponsored by APS Salads, went to Jessica Birtwistle, youngstock manager at Free Green Farm, Over Peover, Knutsford.

Finalists were horticulturist Daniel Traynor who works for Carden Hall near Tilston and Tia Williams, a stockperson at Hayrack Church Farm, Thornton-le-Moors, Chester.

Functional Skills Apprentice of the Year was Bradley Lowe, a gardener with Grappenhall and Thelwall Parish Council.

Guest speaker was Joanna Moonan, Deputy Director at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, who commented that Reaseheath College was well known for providing high quality education and training and that the apprentices attending the awards evening were shining examples of excellence.

One of the country’s leading apprentice trainers, Reaseheath College currently trains 970 land-based apprentices and works in partnership with hundreds of large, medium and small employers.