An outstanding Reaseheath construction plant apprentice who remained focus despite serious illness has been recognised with a national accolade.

Lucy O’Rourke (pictured above), a Construction Plant Mechanic Apprentice who works for Sunbelt Rentals, received the Judges Special Award at the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) Stars of the Future Awards 2021.

The prestigious competition is an annual highlight for the construction plant industry and recognises and rewards outstanding apprentices and trainees who not only bring ability and commitment to their learning and workplace, but also have the potential to be future sector leaders.

Lucy, 19, was selected for a top award after judges heard that despite being seriously ill with Covid and pneumonia and being put on a ventilator in hospital, she remained keen to return to work and had also completed her college studies.

A second Reaseheath apprentice, Beth Doel from HSS Hire, was also a national winner for a supporting video, made at college, which was judged to be the most inspiring, enthusiastic, genuine and well conveyed personal statement out of 40 nominations.

Reaseheath itself was runner up and highly commended in the national College of the Year category and was overall the most successful training provider after taking a further five regional awards.

The regional ‘highly commended’ awards went to:

Plant Mechanic of the Year (North)  George Johnson (Bachy Soletanche)

Plant Mechanic of the Year (South)  Michael Coulson (Sunbelt Rentals)

Plant Technician of the Year (North)  Jack Martin (Asphalt Grid Systems)

Plant Technician of the Year (North)  Steven Behn (SMT GB)

Plant Technician of the Year (South)  Beth Doel (HSS Hire)

The College of the Year Award is a new accolade for FE colleges which are recognised by the CPA as leading the way in engaging, promoting and delivering construction plant based apprenticeships, and which have supported the awards with the quantity and quality of their nominations.

There were almost 70 very strong entries throughout the categories and the judges, who all held senior posts within the industry, were extremely impressed. Apprentices and trainees were assessed by their college or training provider, and in their work environment.

Speaking at the awards ceremony in Coventry, which was attended by 220 key employers, training providers and apprentices, CPA Chief Executive Kevin Minton, said: “The standard of entries for Stars of the Future this year was exceptional and we were delighted to congratulate the nominees and winners in person. It is very reassuring that the future of the construction plant sector is in such safe hands.”

Award winner Lucy, who has worked for Sunbelt Rentals for two years, said: “I was very pleased and proud to win one of the top awards. I enjoy my job, particularly the variety of solving different engineering challenges and dealing with different customers.

“Sixth form college didn’t suit me because I’m happier working hands-on.  Engineering offers great career opportunities – and an apprenticeship which combines work based training at college and at your workplace is an ideal first step into the industry.”

Bob Harper, Head of Training, Sunbelt Rentals UK said: “We are delighted that Lucy’s determination to succeed has been recognised. She is an extremely able fitter who more than holds her own in a traditionally male dominated role at a heavy industrial site. She is typical of the talent we are attracting onto our apprenticeship programme and who will play a vital role in our future.”

Miguel Vicos, Managing Director of Operations at HSS commented: “We are very proud of Beth’s success. She has worked really hard, shown incredible dedication and willingness to learn and has become an invaluable member of our operations team.

“Since partnering with Reaseheath we’ve employed some really talented apprentices and it has been rewarding seeing them grow their skills while learning from our teams. We look forward to continuing to work with the college in encouraging more young people to join the hire industry.”

Charlie Reeves, Programme Leader, Engineering Apprenticeships at Reaseheath, said: “The winning apprentices thoroughly deserve the recognition of these prestigious awards and the whole department is very proud of their success. They consistently earn positive feedback from both Reaseheath and from their employers, and are definitely future management material.

“Reaseheath is committed to supporting businesses by helping to provide a reliable source of next generation, well trained and committed engineers. These apprentices epitomise the values of the college and their employers. They all have very promising careers ahead of them in an exciting industry!”