Sunderland youngsters recognised as North East's Apprentices of the Year

Apprentices were given the accolade for their 'outstanding dedication and commitment to their employers'.
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Four youngsters from Sunderland College were given the accolade of Apprentices of the Year at the Education Partnership North East’s (EPNE) Business and Apprenticeship Awards.

Beth Parodi (Engineering), Nathan Willis (Public Sector), Caitlyn Harper (Health and Social Care), and Chloe Nichols (Professional Business Services) received the prestigious title for their "outstanding dedication and commitment to their employers".

Education Partnership North East’s Apprentice's of the Year from Sunderland College.Education Partnership North East’s Apprentice's of the Year from Sunderland College.
Education Partnership North East’s Apprentice's of the Year from Sunderland College.
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Progressing from a Technical Study Programme to an apprenticeship with manufacturer ZF Automotive in 2021, Beth has become an important member of the Quality team after overcoming many challenges. She said: “I didn’t expect to receive the award, but I was over the moon when I found out I had. It made me feel like all the effort and hard work I had put into this apprenticeship over the past 3 years had definitely paid off. 

“Sunderland college has helped me increase my knowledge and progressive development towards being an engineer.” 

Beth Parodi.

Photograph: Tom BanksBeth Parodi.

Photograph: Tom Banks
Beth Parodi. Photograph: Tom Banks

Lisa Hudson, HR Manager at ZF added: “Beth is an invaluable asset to the company. Her dedication and contributions reflect her excellence and ZF's commitment to fostering talent and diversity within its workforce.”  Apprentice of the Year in the Public Sector was presented to Nathan Willis who was described as ‘a shining example of the limitless potential of apprenticeships’ by his colleagues at Sunderland City Council.  After receiving his award, Nathan said: “Sunderland college and Sunderland City Council have been fantastic with supporting me throughout the apprenticeship, I would recommend them to anyone who would like to work and receive education at the same time.”  

Nathan Willis.

Photograph: Tom BanksNathan Willis.

Photograph: Tom Banks
Nathan Willis. Photograph: Tom Banks

Steven Piercy, Customer Service Desk manager, within the ICT Customer Support Team at the Council added: “Everyone in Sunderland City Council’s ICT Service were over the moon to see Nathan win the very much deserved ‘Apprentice of the year’ award.  

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“Nathan has proved to be a valuable asset to the team and is repeatedly picked out for specific praise by our customers. It is a source of pride that we are able to partner with EPNE to employ apprentices and support them through the course, building their confidence and knowledge in order to provide them with the opportunity to progress into a long and fruitful career.” 

Caitlyn Harper was the youngest apprentice that South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust had employed when she started her Level 2 Health and Social Care in 2019.

Just as she was settling into her new role, COVID hit, and she was faced with the pandemic. 

Caitlyn Harper.

Photograph: Tom BanksCaitlyn Harper.

Photograph: Tom Banks
Caitlyn Harper. Photograph: Tom Banks

Learning was switched to online sessions, and Caitlyn regularly moved wards due to demand and need "but never complained, keeping up her high standards while also supporting a family member who had fallen ill". 

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She is now studying towards an Adult Nursing degree apprenticeship with the Trust. 

Caitlyn said: “It meant a lot to me to receive apprentice of the year and to be invited to the awards was an opportunity to celebrate my hard work during my apprenticeship.   

“The college was great during my apprenticeship, especially my assessor Lorraine.”  

Gemma Taylor, Workforce Development and Education Manager at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust added: “We are proud to support our apprentice of the year Caitlyn Harper. 

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"The awards ceremony was a great evening celebrating her success. Caitlyn joined us straight from school completing a level 2 then a level 3 and has just embarked on her nurse degree apprenticeship programme." 

The final Sunderland-based award went to Chloe Nichols in the Professional Business Sector. Starting her apprenticeship in September 2022, she "quickly settled into the rhythm and expectations of a professional work environment within Gentoo". 

Chloe Nichols.

Photograph: Tom BanksChloe Nichols.

Photograph: Tom Banks
Chloe Nichols. Photograph: Tom Banks

Chloe said: “My overall apprentice experience has been amazing. I have loved gaining on the job experience whilst working towards my qualification. Working with Sunderland College has helped me as I’ve received lots of support and great feedback from my lecturer Tim.   

“My time as an apprentice working for Gentoo has been a very positive experience and I can't wait to see what my future at holds for me.”   

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The awards night was held at Sunderland College's City Campus and hosted by EPNE Chief Executive Ellen Thinnesen.

Ms Thinnesen said: "Hearing why apprentices had won their awards was really moving and it was clear the ceremony and individual recognition meant so much to not only the apprentice and employer, but to parents and family members too."   

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