OxLEP announces new programme set to enhance apprenticeship provision in Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards

Winners and finalists from this year’s Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards came together to celebrate their achievements, as awards-lead OxLEP outlined their future commitment to supporting businesses in the county to create leading apprenticeship programmes through a new project.

The event saw over 125 representatives from across the county’s business community attend the reception at Williams Racing (pictured), as young people, businesses and education providers gathered to applaud stand-out Oxfordshire-led apprenticeship schemes.

Led by OxLEP Skills and supported by a business-led committee, the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards aims to champion work-based learning excellence across a breadth of sectors.

The awards saw finalists’ achievements highlighted across 11 categories, including; apprentice of year, apprenticeship employer awards and a category recognising outstanding training providers in the county.

Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of OxLEP, said: “The Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards remind us of the considerable talent that apprenticeship schemes help to nurture across a variety of sectors and it’s been truly humbling to meet so many fantastic award winners.

“Apprenticeships have been integral to the UK’s skills system for many years, offering young people – and indeed, those seeking a change in career direction – an established pathway to a range of compelling vocational careers and ensuring businesses play an active role in training and nurturing this future talent.

“Within Oxfordshire, apprentices are a vital contributor to our capabilities and productivity within key sectors. As the impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt by the business community, it’s more important than ever that we highlight the positive impact of these schemes and the support available to businesses.

“The Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards has been able to do just that and it was fantastic to bring our finalists together.”

At the reception, OxLEP Skills also announced a new programme set to begin this summer – the Social Contract.

The Social Contract will be a project following in the footsteps of OxLEP Skills’ historic commitment to supporting businesses in Oxfordshire to develop their own pipeline of talent.

Amongst a number of key initiatives for the programme, the new £1.7million project aims to work with applicable Oxfordshire-based companies to unlock and enable their respective Apprenticeship Levy payments, utilising it to develop apprenticeship programmes.

It’s hoped that through the programme, levy payments will be retained locally and support vital skills growth across Oxfordshire, helping employers develop talent pipelines and retain key skills within the county.

In addition, the programme is set to also support young people who have experienced education disturbance and/or unemployment as a result of the pandemic, improve social mobility for minority ethnic communities, helping create better opportunities for those furthest from the labour market and work with over-50s in Oxfordshire affected by labour market challenges.

Nigel Tipple added: “The Social Contract programme is a further evolvement of the vital role we play – and have historically played – in supporting Oxfordshire businesses to be effectively-positioned and able to develop their own pipeline of talent, in particular through apprenticeship schemes.

“We would encourage Oxfordshire businesses and, in particular, those subject to the apprenticeship levy to engage with our new programme and discover how we can support them to benefit from apprenticeships.

“The programme can really support applicable companies, helping them to achieve their goals through accessing the significant talent we have across Oxfordshire.”

Businesses looking to benefit from the Social Contract are being encouraged to contact OxLEP Skills and register their interest in accessing support.

A full list of the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards 2022 finalists and winners are as follows:

Careers Champion Award
Sponsored by The Engineering Trust


Helen Haines – Burford School
Debbie Nicholas – Iffley Academy
Michael Rafferty – The Warriner School

Winner: Michael Rafferty

School/College Engagement Award
Sponsored by Harwell Science and Innovation Campus


Explosive Learning Solutions
Ignite Sport UK
The Burford Recruitment Company

Winner: Ignite Sport UK

Training Provider Individual Award
Sponsored by Owen Mumford


Rob Alderman, Training Officer – The Engineering Trust
Kyle Bestley, Tutor – Ignite Training
Stephen Whiting, Technical Training Assessor – Birmingham Metropolitan College/MINI Plant Oxford

Winner: Stephen Whiting

Intermediate Apprentice of the Year Award
Sponsored by Abbott Diabetes Care


Milly Foxcroft, Apprentice Gardener – Blenheim Palace
Kelly Huggard, HR Apprentice – Blenheim Palace
Wiktoria Pilat, Hairdressing Apprentice – Flawless Finish Hair

Winner: Kelly Huggard

Advanced Apprentice of the Year Award
Sponsored by NielsenIQ


Jordan Davies, Engineering Apprentice – Abbott Diabetes Care
Lauren Hansen, Maintenance Planner – Jacobs Douwe Egberts
David Tomlinson, Digital Content Leader – Oxford University Press

Winner: Jordan Davies

Higher Apprentice of the Year Award
Sponsored by Oxfordshire Advanced Skills


Jade Brooker, Assistant Manager – Assure UK
Anna Middlemiss, Trainee Civil Engineer – Milestone Infrastructure
Nicole Nielsen-Pike, Guest Services Supervisor – Blenheim Palace

Winner: Nicole Nielsen-Pike

Special Recognition Award
Sponsored by Blenheim and Pye Homes


Emily Brandish, Trainee Nursing Associate – Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Souad Elaroussi, Trainee Nursing Associate – Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Daniel Freer, Store Manager – Toolstation

Winner: Emily Brandish

Apprenticeship Employer of the Year (less than 250 employees) Award
Sponsored by Assure UK


Ignite Sport UK
Priory Cast Products
The Oxford Electrical Company

Winner: Priory Cast Products

Apprenticeship Employer of the Year (more than 250 employees) Award
Sponsored by Oxford North


Jacobs Douwe Egberts
Oxford Biomedica

Winner: Oxford Biomedica

Shining Star Award
Sponsored by Integration Technology Ltd


Nicole Nielsen-Pike, Guest Services Supervisor – Blenheim Palace
Ryan Taylor, Shift Maintenance Technician – Jacobs Douwe Egberts
Rachel Townsend, Waste Strategy Project Officer – Oxfordshire County Council

Winner: Ryan Taylor

Oxfordshire Apprentice of the Year Award
Sponsored by The Fiona Wheeler Charitable Foundation

Winners: Jordan Davies, Engineering Apprentice – Abbott Diabetes Care and Nicole Nielsen-Pike, Guest Services Supervisor – Blenheim Palace

This year’s Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards was headline sponsored by The Fiona Wheeler Charitable Foundation, which was established in memory of Fiona Wheeler, co-founder of the West Oxfordshire-based boutique client law firm, The Burnside Partnership.

Fiona – who believed passionately in supporting young people in their careers and was instrumental in establishing The Burnside Partnership’s apprenticeship programme – sadly died in December 2019, aged 35 after a long and courageous battle with illness.