Apprenticeships may be an increasingly fashionable way to train people for a new career but Bradford’s Incommunities organisation has been at the forefront of the work for more than a decade.
Even though others have followed, Incommunities Apprentice of the Year awards tonight proved the organisation is still capable of breaking new ground with its work.
Three of the winners were female, in an industry which is traditionally male dominated and one was aged 41 when apprenticeships are normally associated with those fresh out of education.
Incommunities has set out to break down barriers, working in schools to spread the message that trades in the housing industry are open to women as well as men.
Its annual awards recognised those who have stood out for their work in the last year and Geraldine Howley, Incommunities Group Managing Director, said: “We try to improve year on year, to see how we can make it more diverse.
“We are very proud of what we do, it is not a traditional apprenticeship scheme. We have aimed to bring diversity in and engage females into trades which have traditionally been all-male.
“We have gone into schools and talked with people, to say there is room for females as well as males.”
That also applies to age, with Incommunities currently employing a 50-year-old female plumber who has recently completed her apprenticeship.
Last night’s winners reflected that mix, with the top prize of Main Trades Award going to 18-year-old Kieron Cook at the awards ceremony held at Bradford University’s School of Management.
He is a joiner who acquired a taste for the trade during school work experience and is enjoying his training. “There are so many opportunities, it has opened a lot of doors,” he said.
Colleagues voted for him and were full of praise for his work, with comments including: “Kieron is a hard working individual... his attitude to work is brilliant... he works extremely well as part of a team... is always willing to help other operatives... and has the right attitude and responds very well to every task given.”
The Chair’s award was presented to him by Matthew Walker, Incommunities Housing Association Board Chair.
The Best New Apprentice Award went to Keeley McIntyre, 19, from Shipley, who wanted a “hands on” job after studying art and design at college.
She said: “I didn’t want to go to university, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with it.”
So far she has enjoyed her time, working as part of a team of tradespeople who renovate homes.
Other winners included Rosanne Heaton, 41, a joiner who started an apprenticeship after realising she had an aptitude for the work while completing DIY tasks at home.
She got the Graham Watson Special Achievement Award, which is given to a former apprentice each year.
Emily Cook was given the Peer Award, chosen by her Incommunities apprentice peers and Christopher Farley took the Electrical Award.
The Mentor Award went to Dale Mackrill for supporting an apprentice during training.
The awards were supported by business sponsors who were proud to be involved in the recognising the work of the apprentices and their colleagues, said Geraldine.