10 November 2020

A Devon school for children with special educational needs has won the prestigious South West of England regional heat of the SME Employer of the Year category at the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020. They will now be heading to the finals later this month. The category is sponsored by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT in association with RITTech.

Combe Pafford School in Torquay caters for pupils aged 8 - 19 who have moderate learning difficulties, physical difficulties, Autism Spectrum Condition or complex needs. Last year the school received Highly Commended in the same category.

Caroline Milner, Careers Lead at the school said: “As a special school, we have built our programme around our ethos of promoting youth employment. Our apprentices are good role models for our own students, inspiring and raising aspirations and showing them that employment is achievable. It’s always brilliant to watch an individual apprentices’ journey through our programme. We are very proud to be named regional winners this year.”

Bristol based Spicerack Media Ltd, a digital creative agency were highly commended in this category.

At the start of 2020 SMEs accounted for three-fifths of the employment in the UK and around half of turnover in the private sector. Annette Allmark, Head of Apprenticeships at BCS congratulated the participants and said: “These are difficult times, but the pandemic has only highlighted the important role that technology plays in keeping the economy going.

“At a time of crisis, investing in apprenticeships is not only important today but is absolutely vital for the long term. They play a critical role in plugging skills gaps and in helping to modernise the workforce, ensuring that employers’ evolving skills needs, for example in dynamic IT and tech occupations, can be met.”

BCS carries out the final check - called an end-point-assessment - whereby a digital apprentice demonstrates he/she is fully trained and competent. Around 9,000 digital apprentices have completed this process through BCS. By sponsoring the SME category at the National Apprenticeship Awards, BCS recognises the significant role small and medium-sized employers play when it comes to apprenticeships across all occupations and sectors.

Peter Mucklow, Director, Education and Skills Funding Agency said: “The National Apprenticeship Awards are always very special, but it is more important than ever to celebrate all the exceptional apprentices and apprentice employers who have continued their commitment to apprenticeships during a challenging year.

“The Awards would not be possible without our sponsors, and I would like to thank BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, for their support.”

The judging panels for the awards are selecting the regional finalists for nine different categories, including Apprentice of the Year and the Employer of the Year. Sponsors of the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 include the Army and the Royal Navy, Accenture, and Lloyds Banking Group.

The ceremony for the national winners of the categories will be held on 25th November at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London and virtually.

Back for their 17th year, the National Apprenticeship Awards are a fantastic opportunity to highlight business and individual success in apprenticeships. Particularly poignant this year, given the challenges many employers and apprentices have faced during the pandemic. Each online ceremony will recognise apprentices that have gone above and beyond to make a difference whilst undertaking their apprenticeship.

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. There are nine regional awards across England and the final overall winner will be announced on 25th November at a virtual ceremony.

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