KMF Group's highly anticipated annual awards celebrated the very best of its young engineers this year, with eight awards being handed out at its event on Thursday 20 January.
The much-coveted Apprentice of the Year title was awarded, with three Team Leader Choice Awards, a Time Keeping and Attendance Award, with two highly commended given and a brand-new award which has been created as a touching tribute to a KMF legend.
This year, the event was held at KMF's head office with apprentices and staff invited in person whilst parents and guardians were able to watch on a live stream from home. This enabled the company to go ahead with the awards whilst keeping it Covid safe.
The winners this year are a group of incredibly modest, talented young people who all equally said: "They didn't expect it," a testament to their attitude and dedication to the business.
This year's winner of the big prize, Josh Clewlow, (20), Level 3 Apprentice and KMF Apprentice of the Year said: "I didn't think I'd win it but it's great to have been chosen to receive it.
"The event was great, really well organised and as good as any other award nights have been before."
On working at KMF as an apprentice Josh comments: "It's a great apprenticeship. It challenges you and helps you to learn and grow. I enjoy working with the other apprentices, we all have similar hobbies and interests.
"I hope to stay on at KMF after my apprenticeship and want to progress to management eventually. KMF is good at supporting progression so I'm sure it's achievable. I'm looking forward to finishing my apprenticeship so I can start to progress."
The new award, The John Booth Academic Achievement Award has been created in honour of ex-employee, John Booth who sadly passed away suddenly in February 2021. Aged 65, John joined KMF and was integral to setting up the KMF training facility. He worked with KMF for 10 years before retiring aged 75.
The award was created to solely focus on academia. The team at KMF wanted to recognise an apprentice every year who has grown and developed academically.
This award went to twenty-year-old Ryan Hewitt, who joined in 2019 and has just started his Level 3 apprenticeship. He is the inaugural winner of The John Booth Academic Achievement Award.
Ryan said: "I really didn't expect it but it feels great to have won, and it means quite a lot to be the first to win The John Booth Academic Achievement Award.
"KMF has given me a lot of support with my academics. The KMF apprenticeship is great, and you learn a lot. I went to college first and knew it wasn't for me, I quickly realised I wanted to do something more hands on, which I can do at KMF."
Ambition is rife at KMF with both Josh and Ryan, along with all apprentices, gaining full time employment at the end of their apprenticeship and given the chance to work their way up to management level.
Ryan added: "It's a really good experience, they treat you well, you learn a lot and they look after you."
Ryan was selected as the first recipient of the highly coveted award for his impressive achievements in his academics. Ryan joined KMF with a Grade 3 in GCSE Mathematics which is accepted for a Level 2 apprenticeship but doesn't meet the minimum requirement to begin a Level 3 apprenticeship. To progress to Level 3, Ryan had to attend college one day per week to get his Functional Skills qualification. He did this whilst also working and doing his higher Mathematics which he continually achieved Merits and Distinctions for.
Jenny Johnston, KMF's People and Culture Manager, said: "For Ryan to be completing two Maths courses as well as his apprenticeship full time, not letting any slip and passing them all with flying colours is quite an achievement. His commitment is incredible and we're all impressed with his dedication."
Matt Sanderson, (22), final year Level 3 Apprentice won the Time Keeping and Attendance Award. He commented: "I didn't expect to win it, I just turn up and do my job every day. But it's great to have that recognition.
"It's been a really good apprenticeship and I've learned loads of transferable skills. It's helped with my confidence a lot too. This apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to do different things in the company and I've met a lot of good people.
"I'd recommend a KMF apprenticeship. It's the best apprenticeship course around. The training centre has the same equipment you use on the shop floor so once you've finished it, you're ready to just step into the work."
Matt was also recognised at the award event for being "The Most Valuable Team Member" as voted for by his peers. During an Outward Bounds Week with the Lindley Education Centre in the Peak District, the team was asked to nominate who they thought fit the bill and Matt was selected unanimously.
He added: "It's really nice the team voted for me. It came off the back of the Big Expedition where I was picked as Team Leader."
Three apprentices received a Team Leader Choice Award as voted for by the KMF Production Team. Those chosen scored consistently high throughout the year on work ethic, communication, development in work skills and personal development as well as showing a good attitude.
Kyle Marshall, (17), won it for the Level 2 group, Dan Barlow, (19), won the First Year Level 3 group, and Ewan Spooner, (21), won for the Second Year Level 3 group.
All three were pleasantly surprised to have won.
Ewan said: "It was good to have the celebration and it's brilliant to have your hard work recognised as well as getting the feedback."
Dan was also really happy to have won and added: "The apprenticeship is really good. It's great to have a job and gain qualifications at the same time, it's a brilliant way to get experience. You get to work on actual production equipment while learning and I would recommend it to other people."
Kyle added that he was happy that KMF recognises what he does and his efforts. He also said: "I'd recommend a KMF apprenticeship. When I left school, I didn't want to be in the classroom anymore, I enjoy being on the shop floor and I've learned loads of transferable skills."
Jenny added: "We currently have 30 apprentices at KMF and anyone of them would be worthy winners. They're all hard working, dedicated young people who show great commitment to KMF. This year's six winners were chosen because they go above and beyond. They work incredibly hard and continue to stand out for all the right reasons.
"We're really proud of our apprentices and we can't wait to start the process of recruiting so we can meet the next cohort to follow in some fantastic footsteps."
Each apprentice took part in a Life Skills class the Friday before where MD Gareth Higgins taught them how to iron their shirts and tie a tie. This was to ensure they all looked the part, ready for the awards evening.
This isn't an unusual day for apprentices who take part in life skills events at KMF all the time. A KMF apprenticeship teaches more than just on the job skills, it prepares its apprentices for success in life as a whole.
One of the most popular experiences which the apprentices all love is the Big Expedition mentioned by Matt.
This is a week long residential in the Peak District with the Lindley Education Centre which focuses on outdoor learning. KMF's week with Lindley's Apprentice Development Programme taught the group how to deal with different challenges, work as a team, develop as leaders and learn new strategies for managing change.
Apprentice of the Year, Josh appreciated it. He added: ""The Lindley trip was a highlight. It's good that KMF arranges something like that for you. When you get an apprenticeship, you don't really think you'll get to do anything like that. But it gets you out for the day, makes a change to your usual week and you learn a lot."
While award winner Ryan added: "A highlight of mine was Lindley. It's great because it gets you out of work learning different life skills, working in a team, and leadership."
Jenny added: "It's important to the leadership team at KMF that the apprentices get to experience different opportunities but equally they learn valuable and transferable life skills, whilst having fun too. Days like our Ironing Event right to bigger events such as the Lindley trip give our young people the chance to do something different with their apprenticeship and they can apply their knowledge gained as they see fit."
It's been an exciting and positive month at KMF and now the company is opening applications for its 2022 cohort.
Up to 16 spaces are available for the region's youngest and brightest to fill.
The application process has officially begun to find 16 sheet metal fabrication apprentices.
The group supports young people in developing their careers from its on-site, purpose-built training centre and dedicated training workshop. The students complete both their theory and practical work at the Newcastle-under-Lyme facility. The programme has grown rapidly over the last 14 years with the Group having four full time qualified teachers on-site at the EAL approved training centre.
Providing opportunities is at the forefront of the manufacturer's culture and additionally more people are supported as they go on to higher education at degree level.
To find out more about the KMF Group visit: www.kmf.co.uk/more/young-apprenticeships.html