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13 March 2017

UK’s top apprentice proves power of qualifications

Philippa Dressler-Pearson
Talented engineer Philippa Dressler-Pearson put the disappointment of redundancy behind her to find a new employer, excel in her role and be named ‘Best of British Engineering’ at the prestigious Semta Skills Awards in early March – and in doing so proved the power of qualifications.

The 23-year-old from Worcestershire beat off strong competition to win the overall award, having earlier been named the UK’s Apprentice of the Year, sponsored by MBDA UK, at the Semta Skills Awards 2017 gala dinner in London’s Hilton Hotel on Park Lane hosted by BBC presenter Alexander Armstrong.

Her victory underlines the critical role that qualifications play for employees and employers ensuring that skills are both robust and transferable.

Through no fault of her own, Philippa was made redundant during the third year of her apprenticeship, but bounced back to find a new position with Southco Manufacturing in Worcester.

Although the business and work was very different, through sheer hard work and determination she completed her Level 3 qualifications and Foundation Degree without any deferment or interruption.

Dressler-Pearson says: “This is an incredible honour. I started my apprenticeship four years ago and after 18 months the company I previously worked for went into administration. Being told we were all going to be redundant was devastating. I picked myself up; my training provider and college were incredible. Southco came along, we bonded, I went in for an interview and the rest is history. I would say to anyone be enthusiastic, enjoy what you do and you will succeed.”

Nick Bennett, engineering manager at Southco, said: “She has shown an enthusiasm, dynamism and a desire to learn and be the best. She has been supporting the rest of our apprentices, and helped produce an induction programme for engineers which has gone global.”

She has also been heavily involved in organising several charity events and is passionate about showing students, teachers and parents that apprenticeships are a great route into a career.

Ann Watson, CEO of Semta, the not-for-profit organisation tasked with skilling engineering and manufacturing in the UK said: “Without a recognised qualification Philippa may well have struggled to prove her ability and get another job. Semta is campaigning for qualifications to be included in new Trailblazer Apprenticeships – to avoid industrial chaos.

During the ceremony the Semta Group announced Dame Judith Hackitt as the new Chair.

Award winners

  • Diversity in Engineering award – supported by WISE. Winner: Atkins Global, London. Runners-up: Airbus, Bristol; British Airways, Harmondsworth, London
  • Apprentice of the Year – sponsored by MBDA UK. Winner: Philippa Dressler-Pearson, Southco Manufacturing, Worcester. Runners-up: Bradley Clare, Allied Protek, Grimsby; Hal Devonald, Siemens Subsea, Ulverston, Cumbria.
  • Higher Apprentice of the Year - sponsored by Rolls-Royce. Winner: Ethan Davies, Electroimpact UK, Deeside, Wales. Runners-up: Matthew Peach, Airbus, Bristol; Christiane Rogerson, BAE Systems, Preston, Lancashire
  • Graduate of the Year - sponsored by Airbus. Winner: Sophie Harker, BAE Systems, Preston, Lancashire. Runners-up: Riccardo Puca, Rolls-Royce, Derby; Philippa Spencer, Rolls-Royce , Derby
  • Skills Champion of the Year - sponsored by BAE Systems. Winner: Martin Tomkins, Ford Motor Company, Dagenham, Essex. Runners-up: Jo Lopes, Jaguar Land Rover; Andy Young, British Airways, Harmondsworth, London
  • Skills Innovation of the Year - sponsored by GetMyFirstJob. Winner: KMF Group, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Runners-up: Activate Business School & BMW Group, Oxford; Jaguar Land Rover & University of Bradford
  • Training Partner of the Year - sponsored by EAL. Winner: Ayrshire College, Kilmarnock, Scotland. Runners-up: Skills Training UK, Walsall, West Midlands; Warwickshire College Group Trident Centre, Warwick
  • Award for SME Investment in Skills - sponsored by Jaguar Land Rover. Winner: Lander Automotive, Birmingham. Runners-up: Salop Design & Engineering, Sittingbourne, Kent; Wire Belt Company, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
  • Technician of the Year - sponsored by Royal Academy of Engineering. Winner: Katie Gray, Vector Aerospace Component Services, Perth, Scotland. Runners-up: Philip Booth, Greencore Prepared Meals, Sheffield; Leon Denton, Lockheed Martin, Bedford

Will Dalrymple

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