Northumbrian Water Group

Thomas Smith joined the NWG in November 2019.  During COVID-19 Thomas continued in his role as an Apprentice Production Operator however his learning had to be accelerated to make sure that we could continue to provide clean, clear and great tasting water to all of our customers. At the start of the pandemic all of our treatment work operators were granted key worker status. 

Thomas has achieved his competency to operate Lumley WTW and treat water to a regulatory standard within 12 months, whilst also taking on additional responsibilities to learn the Sunderland Groundwater sites whilst he learnt about the water sources that come from an underground aquifer.  His flexibility has meant we can support both the Lumley and GWS teams with additional cover during COVID.  Thomas’ additional training has improved our COVID resilience, to ensure treatment works can continue to operate throughout this period.

The Level 3 Diploma quickly changed to online learning and Thomas proactively provided lecture material and led his cohorts through a practical example of filter changes, which he learnt on the Sunderland groundwater sites.  His fellow colleagues commented that it was done to a high level and Thomas’ explanation helped them understand the subject using real examples.


Fernley Resource Centre St Josephs

Due to Covid-19, the day centre at Fernley Resource Centre was forced to close. This was devastating for our service, staff, people we support and their families. During this time Rebecca Hirst worked with our residential clients supporting them at Fernley Resource Centre.

As an activity worker she has a specific focus on the quality of life issues for those she supports. Rebecca is a committed and compassionate person who gets to know the people she supports and finds out what they like and enjoy. She builds on each person’s preferences and skills and finds the things that they like to do for fun and ensures they have a positive experience while attending the Fernley Resource Centre.

Throughout the lockdown period when we were told to stay at home, Rebecca came to work each day and supported her vulnerable service users. It was a difficult time and when many stayed safe at home Rebecca never hesitated and never let us down. 

She arranged and took part in lots of person centred activities; she enjoys music and stories and was able to introduce these into her work whenever she could. She developed a very special relationship with one lady and that relationship continues to this day. The bond that they developed in lockdown is even stronger.  

Rebecca is an amazing person and she remains a shining light in this difficult period. She displays a quiet confidence when delivering support and engaging with her service users and she is such a good role model and support for her colleagues. I watched her support others during the lockdown period when they were having a difficult time and Rebecca continues to go above and beyond both at work or outside her work to help them.  


Ashwood Residential Care Home

Sharon Tinsley works as a Care Assistant within the home providing personal care and support. Sharon has worked throughout the Covid -19 pandemic and has had to undertake her weekly Covid 19- tests. Sharon has also been involved in the isolation of new patients coming into the home under the Covid -19 guidelines whilst ensuring that there have been no breaches in Personal Protective Equipment, and adhering to all regulations in sometimes difficult circumstances.

Sharon has been employed at Ashwood since 2nd October 2018. In this time she has completed her Care Certificate & Level 2 in Care Award and has worked throughout the Covid -19 pandemic. Sharon has worked all shifts over a 24 hour period, which ensures that she has a full understanding of the home daily workings and understands her client’s needs on a full 24 hour basis.

Sharon recently transferred onto the night shift pattern, and has shown her good work ethic and understanding of her clients – which is invaluable, as the client’s cannot see their loved ones inside of the home, and are mainly subject to window visits throughout the pandemic. Sharon understands that this can have a major impact on the clients especially formally diagnosed Dementia / Mental Health patients.

Sharon has been a role model for the Care Profession and throughout pandemic, has worked without absence, always with a smile and a caring word; thus aiding continuity to the people she cares for who rely heavily on routine. This in itself gives a sense of normality in some very uncertain and potentially unsettling times.


Pendennis Shipyard Ltd

It would be very difficult to single out one individual apprentice as they have all excelled during these difficult and uncertain times; so, as a company we have nominated our 1st Year Engineering Cohort of 13 young people as our nomination.

Even though the apprentices had all been furloughed at home they understood the need to continue & stay on track with their college coursework, a task not helped as the college on-line systems were far from effective in the first few weeks.

We gave our 1st year apprentices the opportunity to volunteer whilst furloughed, every one of them responded positively and couldn’t wait to get involved. They started off their volunteer period by going into the shipyard in small groups to make and sew face-masks – a new skill for all of them but they enjoyed it.                            

The apprentices also offered their support to the local community as volunteers. An example of their work, they helped with maintenance at the local cricket club something usually done by people who were now having to isolate but our apprentices made sure things didn’t fall into disrepair; the local town council were keen for help and the team did 4 weeks of town cleans preparing Falmouth for the public to come back safely. The apprentices also helped out in local schools, assisting one in Redruth to build an outside learning area, something that probably wouldn’t have got done without our volunteers. The apprentices never said no even though for some it wasn’t easy due to lock-down restrictions and travel.            


University of Oxford

Emilia Reyes Pabon was vital in supporting our manufacture of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine – the UK’s first COVID-19 vaccine to enter clinical trials.  The record-breaking speed with which we were able to successfully produce the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine, between March and April 2020, was enabled by the efficiency with which our Apprentice, Emilia, ensured we had sufficient supplies of everything we needed and that our cleanrooms used for vaccine production were clean, monitored and maintained at all times.

As an Apprentice Technician Scientist Emilia’s job description included supporting the Production team manufacturing vaccines in our cleanrooms, according to the strict regulations of Good Manufacturing Practice.  Her work involved sterilising equipment, restocking supplies, environmental monitoring to ensure appropriate cleanliness and regular cleaning of the rooms and equipment. She also worked for part of her time with the Facilities team, ensuring equipment was maintained, tested and cleaned correctly. 

photo (c) John Cairns

Once the COVID-19 pandemic began and we were tasked with producing a vaccine as quickly as possible so that a clinical trial could be started, we relied on Emilia’s dedication to her role and her diligence and competency to ensure we could achieve this goal. During this time Emilia adapted well to continuing her studies and lectures remotely with her training provider (CSR).  Her hard work paid off and she was rewarded with a Distinction in her apprenticeship in August 2020.  

We believe that Emilia has great future potential for a very successful career in this field. She has the passion and aptitude to develop and progress her skills and knowledge which will continue to benefit the Clinical BioManufacturing Facility and any future employer. For this reason, we have been very pleased to be able to offer her a new three-year higher apprenticeship – Level 5 Technician Scientist – with the intention to extend this by a further two years for Emilia to complete her Level 6 apprenticeship and gain her degree. Emilia is a great example of how taking on an apprentice can be beneficial for all involved.


Adams Morey

Dylan Marinda has developed into a key member of our team during his HGV Technician Apprenticeship and has proven to be a real asset to Adams Morey . He has great customer facing skills and brilliant attention to detail. It has been a pleasure to work with Dylan through his apprenticeship and watch him grow in confidence and skill.

During the period of COVID -19 lockdown a lot of Dylan’s colleagues were put on furlough but he was still required to work throughout the pandemic. Consequently, Dylan had to be a lot more independent, as he was given jobs to carry out on his own – which he completed with great skill. These jobs varied from inspections, clutch replacements and recalls as well as more technical work. This independence has enabled Dylan to develop his confidence, something which is seen in his work today, whilst also enhancing his customer service skills during a difficult time faced with many challenges.


Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust

During the pandemic Vickie Ibbott was responsible for creating Covid-19 secure processes for staff in the hospitals under her remit.

The mobilisation of the new community contract through the early months of the pandemic was a massive operational undertaking, especially during a period when senior members of the team were off with Covid. Vickie’s role was to guide 230 members of staff through this period by organising the issue of new IT equipment and systems, ensuring a smooth transition for staff who were being transferred from one organisation to another. This in itself, on top of a pandemic brings many operational challenges. However, Vickie rose to these challenges, ensuring business continuity and patient safety during this crucial time of transfer period.

Vickie has been highly commended for her support and management throughout the current pandemic. Her role includes, process writing, structure and systems building as well as compilation of training policies and procedures in relation to COVID-19 compliance requirements.


Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

George Shuttleworth has been working as an apprentice Firefighter throughout the pandemic. George is based at Offerton Community Fire Station in Stockport Greater Manchester on Green Watch. Throughout the pandemic George has continued with his training and attended incidents including road traffic collisions, fires as well as helping NWAS (North West Ambulance Service) dealing with a number of COVID positive patients.   

In addition to his main job role as an Operational Firefighter George also volunteered to undertake multiple shifts at the Nightingale hospital in Manchester. These were voluntary and the Emergency Response hub (crewing) had great difficulty finding sufficient firefighters to have the fire appliance based there. There was a great need for a crew to be based at the hospital as it had large quantities of oxygen on site and therefore had increased potential of fire.  

George volunteered for a number of shifts both day and night where no rest facilities were provided (unlike stations) in order to try and do his bit towards the pandemic. He was the only apprentice on station to have done so and went above and beyond in making sure the residents of Greater Manchester were safe.  


Cavendish Nuclear

George Garner is a 3rd year Project Management Apprentice who has a real passion for outreach, building strong relationships and using his skills for innovation to create change. Based in our Warrington office, George had to quickly transition to remote/virtual learning and working in order to continue to deliver excellent results in both his role and at college.

George had taken the challenges from COVID-19 in his stride, not letting the restrictions limit his reach to the local community. During the height of lockdown, George took on the responsibility of leading STEM for Cavendish Nuclear in the Warrington area. He quickly assessed the changing landscape and went straight to focusing on the development of a virtual work experience programme. Recognising that in-person work experience would no longer be a safe viable option, George has been working in collaboration with Sellafield Ltd and KBR in the development of a virtual nuclear work experience programme. With the pilot scheduled for November it will allow 6-8 students a month’s long experience of running their own project set around a real nuclear scenario. It will give them that important exposure to a professional environment, which they will experience through remote/virtual working in just the same way as the majority of the current workforce in the country. 

During the pandemic, George also used his creative abilities to develop a civil nuclear STEM activity and educational booklet, suitable for all ages to help them understand the nuclear industry in simple and fun ways. He is currently working on creating a mentoring programme for local schools and colleges to tap into. This will provide students with the opportunity to access a professional mentor whilst they are studying in higher education. Furthermore, George is also working with a local university technical college (UTC) to offer tutoring/technical/development sessions where industry experts will provide expertise on their subject matter via face-to-face or virtual sessions. 

George has not only focused on STEM during lockdown, he has also driven continual professional development (CPD) for the project professional’s early careers community. With support from one of Babcock Internationals marine graduates, George set up CPD sessions for both Cavendish and Babcock employees to help them during these difficult times, these sessions helped to tick off key competencies needed for their apprentice and graduate schemes, along with helping the community to build a wider network. George targeted both internal and external speakers to host these sessions, broadening the community’s horizons and improving inclusivity of thought.

George is a proactive and resourceful individual who has the ability to see past the obstacles in his way and come up with innovative solutions. He is a superstar apprentice, an asset to his team and is well on his way to becoming a great project manager. His passion for STEM and for community outreach is amazing and so valuable in our industry, which is increasingly in need of STEM qualified talent.


Cambridge Community Services

Stephanie McLaughlin started her Nursing Associate course in January 2020 at Anglian Ruskin University and was in her first clinical placement at Papworth Hospital when COVID meant that she had to leave and return to her “home” base of community adult services in Luton. To enable the course to go on, Steph continued with her academic studies using virtual technology to engage with university lectures and peer meetings.

Throughout this time, she was also working as a Health Care Assistant (HCA) and visiting patients in their homes in the Luton area carrying out work assigned to her by the district nurses. Steph has been in this role for 3 years and has always visited patients and carried out whatever work was assigned to her without questioning it, demonstrating her dedication to her role.

Steph’s newly acquired knowledge has enabled her to think about her work in a totally different way, and most importantly be able to deliver excellent patient centred care. For this to happen during the pandemic has been remarkable, as it would have been very easy for Steph to disengage with the course, and to just focus on her HCA role. But her commitment to the course and dedication to make a difference for patients has been incredibly impressive.