Congratulations to all the winners of the nine regional heats of the National Apprenticeship Awards. BCS sponsor the SME Employer of the Year category, who ranged from dentists to children's services to engineering firms. We recognise the significant role small- and medium-sized employers play in apprenticeships across all occupations and sectors.

Sponsored by BCS and Registration for IT Technicians (RITTech)

Annette Allmark, Head of Apprenticeships at BCS, said: "At a time when there's a shortage of skilled people across many sectors, apprenticeships are a great way to start or progress a career.  

"There is now greater awareness about the availability of a much more comprehensive range of employer-designed apprenticeships, including those in digital roles, as well in the more traditional sectors such as retail, hospitality, and construction. 

"Employers increasingly see apprenticeships of all sizes as a fantastic way to develop staff and build their talent pipeline. The National Apprenticeship Awards are so important as they put a spotlight on the achievements of apprentices and their employers, who deserve to be applauded and celebrated."  

The nine winners in the BCS sponsored SME category are:

  1. North East McCarrick Construction, Chester-le-Street, County Durham.
  2. East Midlands Dental 22, Retford, Nottinghamshire.
  3. London Blue Engineering, a structural engineering firm 
  4. North West Inspire Children's Services, St Helens, Greater Manchester.
  5. East of England Higgins Partnerships, construction and development company, Loughton, Essex,   
  6. West Midlands Lander Automotive, Birmingham.
  7. South West Combe Pafford School, Torquay, Devon.
  8. Yorkshire and Humberside Town Hall Group, Dental practice, Brighouse, West Yorkshire.
  9. South East MCFT,  Commercial kitchen fitters and servicers, Maidenhead, Berkshire. 

More about the winners

McCarrick Construction, Chester-le-Street, County Durham
Matthew McCarrick, Director of the family-owned construction firm, said: "We're delighted to receive this award. No doubt we were up against far larger companies, so this is a real achievement. We've had apprentices with our company since 1953, and career progression opportunities are clear to see - we've got former apprentices who are managers, supervisors and even on the main board of directors.

"We won the same award a few years ago, and it helped us with recruitment as the calibre of apprentices that came through after that was even higher. Also, supporting young people into apprenticeships is of great benefit to our community in North Durham, and our tradition of doing this is one of the reasons we are such a respected employer locally."

Dental 22, Retford, Nottinghamshire
Adam Walker, Principal Dentist, said: "It's lovely to be recognised for the effort that a lot of the staff put into apprenticeships. This year has been particularly challenging because of COVID, especially in the dental sector. Our apprentices massively helped our ability to maintain a good service." 

Blue Engineering, structural engineering firm based in Shoreditch, London
James Nevin, Partner at Blue Engineering, said: "For any SME who doesn't know the process, it's much easier than you think to take on an apprentice from recruitment through to finding a learning provider. It's all accessible, and the government grants make it an attractive financial proposition."

Inspire Children's Services, St Helens
Training Manager Sarah Keogh from Inspire said apprentices are at the heart of their organisation: "If we've got well-trained staff in our sector then that means the children in our care will be well looked after, and that's the most important thing. It's all about staff growth and development." 

Higgins Partnerships in Loughton, Essex, construction and development company
Amy Ross, Head of Social Value at the firm, said: "Apprenticeships have been part of our strategy for many years to support people from diverse backgrounds, and of all ages, into the industry. It's great to be recognised for this."   

Lander Automotive in Birmingham makes assembled products mainly for the automotive sector
Anita Davenport-Brooks for Lander Automotive said: "We have an extensive apprenticeship programme and recruit every eight to nine weeks. The main aim is to give them the basic skills in manufacturing, and then they can go onto other roles such as engineering, HR, purchasing and quality control. It's been a fantastic success, and we are proud to receive this award."  

Combe Pafford School, Torquay, Devon 
The school caters for pupils aged 8-19 who have moderate learning difficulties; some also have physical difficulties or Autistic Spectrum Condition. Caroline Milner, Careers Lead at the school, said: "We are very pleased to win this for the second year in a row. I think the secret of our success is amazing apprentices; they are fabulous and very keen to get involved in all sorts of activities. We're a special school, and our apprentices are such good role models for our students. Some of our apprentices are ex-pupils, so the students can see with these role models that there is something they can aspire to." 

Town Hall Group, Dental Practice, Brighouse, West Yorkshire
Rachel Dilley, Chief Operating Officer, started as an apprentice herself 30 years ago. She said: "It's a privilege to be offered such an award. I know how difficult it is and how much mentoring you need. For me, employing apprentices is a joy. I love to nurture them and see them grow. Most of my team started out as apprentices and were mentored by myself and other team members who have been apprentices. It is always a privilege to be able to give the support they need. I'm continuing to employ apprentices - my newest team member starts next week - it's a gift that you give back."

MCFT from Maidenhead
The firm has fixed fridges and ovens in commercial kitchens since 1992.  Chris Craggs, CEO MCFT, said: "We're delighted to have been given this award. We've trained many young and not so young people over the past fifteen years. "Alongside our core business of servicing and fixing commercial kitchens, we have developed software solutions. We need fresh blood for all of that, and we've found apprentices enjoy being trained by us and earning while they learn. It's been an extremely successful way to work and provide apprentices with the skills they need."      

Showcasing skills

BCS supports and promotes apprenticeships, and carries out the final check to ensure digital apprentices are competent - called an end-point assessment. Thirteen thousand plus digital apprentices have completed this process through BCS. 

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Alex Burghart, Minister for Skills, said: "As the new Minister for Skills, I'm a major believer in what apprenticeships can do for employers, the economy and the apprentices themselves, so a huge congratulations to everyone taking part in these regional finals.  

"These awards recognise those employers who continue to invest in skills through apprenticeships and those who have achieved great success. Just as importantly, they also showcase those fantastic apprentices who are already having a significant impact in their chosen field." 

The judging panels for the awards selected the regional finalists for nine different categories, including Apprentice of the Year and the Employer of the Year. As well as BCS, the sponsors of the National Apprenticeship Awards 2021 include the Army and the Royal Navy, Accenture, and Lloyds Banking Group.  

National Apprenticeship Awards

Back for their 18th year, the National Apprenticeship Awards, the awards are open to apprentices, individuals who promote apprenticeships and employers of all sizes from all sectors, with entrants asked to demonstrate the impact apprenticeships has made to individual's lives and their workplaces.


Facts and figures from the Federation of Small Businesses

  • At the start of 2021, there were 5.5 million small businesses (with 0 to 49 employees), 99.2% of the total business. SMEs account for 99.9% of the business population (5.6 million businesses). 
  • SMEs account for three-fifths of the employment and around half of the turnover in the UK private sector.
  • Total employment in SMEs was 16.3 million (61% of the total), whilst turnover was estimated at £2.3 trillion (52%).
  • Employment in small businesses (with 0 to 49 employees) was 12.9 million (48% of the total), with a turnover of £1.6 trillion (36%).