THE value of apprenticeships to both employers and students was in the spotlight last night as Askham Bryan College staged its first ever Apprenticeship Awards.

The event, held at the colleges York campus, drew inspiration from the 800 apprentices currently studying with the land-based education specialist while working at centres across the north of England.

The awards covered 12 categories with a further two for employers and were presented by Tom Hepburn of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in front of an invited audience including representatives from businesses and organisations from across the region, as well as staff and students.

Catherine Dixon, chief executive of Askham Bryan College said: “Apprenticeships play a vital role in equipping young people for their future careers and have been part of our education provision for many years.

“As a college we value our links with employers and continue to grow those partnerships as we work together to inspire and enable young people to grow in confidence and knowledge as they work towards their career goals.”

Among the winners was Huntington-based Aspects Horticultural Services, which received the Small Employer of the Year Award.

The company specialises in ground maintenance, landscaping and sports turf renovation and for the last decade its apprentices have attended the college. The company currently has two apprentices studying horticulture at Askham Bryan.

Richard Webster, managing director said: “It’s a partnership arrangement which works really well, with us providing the practical side and Askham Bryan the important theory and technical side.

“Not only does this benefit our business, but it gives young people a great foundation for their future careers. I see our involvement in the apprenticeship scheme as a way of putting something back into society by empowering young people.

“It was a surprise to win this award, but of course I’m delighted both for the company, and for the young people we employ.”

The awards received backing from the Apprenticeships & Skills Minister Anne Milton MP who visited the college last month.he said: “Completing an apprenticeship is a significant and prestigious achievement.

“On my recent visit I saw first hand the pride the college shows in all it does, and the experience, qualifications and skills it brings to the workplace. An apprenticeship is the jewel in the crown; the ticket to a dream career. Askham Bryan College is proof that apprenticeships offer the chance to go places. With an apprenticeship as a springboard, the opportunities are immense.”