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Seven finalists named for Manufacturing Apprentice of the Year Awards

Judges have selected the finalists for the 2019 Southern Manufacturing Apprentice of the Year Awards. In both categories – apprentices in companies under £20 million turnover, and over £20m – the judging panel was impressed with the calibre of entrants.

Supported by headline sponsor Xtrac, and sponsored by MHA MacIntyre Hudson and Lloyds Bank, the Apprentice of the Year Awards celebrates the achievements of apprentices across the south. Founded and staged by The Business Magazine, the competition culminates in presentations at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, Coventry, on October 2.

The finalists are:

Companies over £20m turnover (alphabetically, by surname):

  • Matthew Dearing – working at UKAEA, Culham Science Centre, near Abingdon
  • Jamie Rusbridge – working at Xtrac, Thatcham
  • Katriya Sabin – also working at UKAEA, Culham Science Centre, near Abingdon
  • Thomas Thompson – working at AWE plc, Aldermaston, near Reading

Companies under £20m turnover:

  • Darryl King – working at Robert Bion & Co, Reading
  • Caitlin Smyth – working at Middlesex Aerospace, Basingstoke
  • Abbie Sullivan – working at Scott Tools, Maidenhead

Judges said: “We had a host of really strong entries which clearly demonstrated the benefit to the business they work for. However, some entrants were further through their apprenticeships than others so had a larger skill set and therefore demonstrated how they had made positive differences to the company – whether it be through cost-saving procedures, re-writing user manuals or being excellent role models to newer less qualified apprentices within the workforce.”

Lead sponsor Xtrac, the world’s leading supplier of high-performance gearboxes for motorsport, is a strong supporter of these awards and apprenticeships generally.

Peter Digby, president of Xtrac and an ex-British Airways engineer apprentice, said: “Manufacturing apprenticeships offer a great step into the important engineering and manufacturing sectors and create valuable skilled and incredibly loyal employees. Over 85% of all Xtrac apprentices are still working for the company, including the very first one from 1990.”

‘A fantastic opportunity to celebrate the achievements of apprentices in the south’


After last year’s successful launch of the Apprentice of the Year award, the 2019 award, which is sponsored by MHA MacIntyre HudsonLloyds Bankand headline sponsor Xtrac, experts in transmission technology, is expected to attract quality nominations from across the south.

For 2019, there are two awards trophies – one for apprentices from companies under £20m turnover and the second for apprentices from companies over £20m turnover.

2019 campaign

Entries are now closed

  • Southern Manufacturing annual dinner: April 30, at Madejski Stadium, Reading
  • Apprentice of the Year presentations at the MTC Coventry: October 2 

The headline sponsorship is Xtrac, the world’s leading supplier of high-performance gearboxes for motorsport.

About Xtrac

Xtrac is a world-leader in the design and manufacture of transmissions and driveline components for top-level motorsport and high-performance automotive applications. Xtrac supplies most of the world’s top motorsport teams, including many of the major factory entrants as well as smaller teams racing in ‘one make’ championships and technology-regulated formulae. High-performance automotive customers rely on Xtrac’s specialist expertise and reduced lead times particularly in hypercar transmissions, and advanced technology transmissions for use in high-performance hybrid and electric vehicles.

Based in Berkshire and in the US, Xtrac is a major ambassador for the UK’s world-renowned motorsport industry. Employing over 350 highly-qualified staff to work on global customer programmes, Xtrac supplies transmission and driveline products including gearboxes, differentials and gearchange systems – of which almost 80% is exported around the world.

Xtrac is extremely proud to be supporting the Southern Manufacturing Apprenticeship Awards programme, especially as the Xtrac Advanced Apprenticeship in Mechanical Engineering Scheme was the recipient of the Princess Royal Training Award in 2018.

Xtrac’s apprentices, working alongside Newbury College gain experience in all aspects of the business, including skilled machining, process management, engineering and gearbox assembly.

Peter Digby, president of Xtrac and an ex British Airways engineer apprentice, is very happy to support the Southern Manufacturing Apprentice Awards programme: “Manufacturing apprenticeships offer a great step into the important engineering and manufacturing sectors and create valuable skilled and incredibly loyal employees. Over 85% of all Xtrac apprentices are still working for the company, including the very first one from 1990”.


Hosted by The Business Magazine, the inaugural Apprentice of the Year Award last October was held at the Manufacturing Technology Centre at Ansty Park in Coventry.

Holding the event at the MTC created a lot of interest and all the guests, as well as the apprentices, were given the opportunity of a guided tour of the purpose-built facility. Established in 2015, the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre is a state-of-the-art training centre on the MTC campus that is making a significant contribution towards solving the skills shortages which have been prevalent in manufacturing for many years. It was designed to help create a new generation of engineers and technicians, equipped with the advanced manufacturing skills of the future.

After a welcome from Peter Laurie, head of client relations at The Business Magazine, Christian Warden, head of skills at the MTC, gave everyone a insight into the aim of the MTC in providing a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy. Warden also touched upon the centre being an approved Department of Education training provider and a flagship facility for the advanced apprenticeship programme. Apprentices learn the latest technology in areas such as intelligent automation, additive manufacture, laser machining and welding; and they are able to test and develop their skills in sponsored placements.

After the guided tours were completed a buffet lunch was on hand to allow guests time to network with each other and importantly the chance for the apprentices to meet one another.

The time was then reached to find out who was the winner of this year’s award from the impressive list of nominations submitted from a cross-section of manufacturing businesses across the south – see details below.

  • Abbi Fisher, BAE Systems plc

Other finalists

  • Harrison Farthing – AWE plc
  • Josh Gilbert – Magal AWT
  • Calan Kenward – LG Motion
  • Chris Marrs – Xtrac

Special commendation

  • Merrin Jupp, Ocean Air Marine

Comments from all the finalists :


Abbi Fisher (left)

“It was a pleasure to be invited to MTC for the Southern Manufacturing Apprentice of the Year event, and a privilege to be awarded the winner’s trophy. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about industry leaders at the forefront of technological advances, and how MTC is a key enabler in turning pioneering research into revolutionary manufacturing solutions. I particularly enjoyed networking with others embracing innovation while inspiring others with their behaviour, and celebrating everyone’s efforts and roles in the future of the engineering sector.” 

Harrison Farthing (second left)

“The day of the final was held at the MTC, Coventry. It was a great opportunity to visit MTC and get an insight into the industry leading work that they do. We were taken on tours of the Centre and shown the work that it does and the different machinery it uses. After the tours took place, we then had the presentation of the winner and special commendation award. The day of the final was very enjoyable, it was good to be able to talk to other apprentices, from other employers, and hear about their journeys and experiences.”

Chris Marrs (centre left)

“I thought that the event was fantastic. Seeing all of the new and latest technology and what the future could be like was fascinating. The advancement of technology in the modern day and actually getting to see it first hand was almost something out of this world.

“I found the fact that the facility trains up apprentices to a high level wonderful. They get the latest machines and technology at their fingertips and even getting the exposure to it is amazing. I would say to anyone that gets the opportunity, go and have a tour, it is definitely worth it.”

Calan Kenward (centre)

“It was a great day and I was very pleased to be part of it. To see the work of the MTC has reinforced my belief that engineering is the best career in the world. Thankfully, LG Motion have been incredibly supportive in my ambitions.”

Joshua Gilbert (centre right)

“I thank everyone involved in the day for such a motivational, memorable and educational experience. We had an amazing tour around the facilities, which opened my eyes to some manufacturing processes I hadn’t even heard of.

“The Award ceremony was great for all involved. The support and encouragement was overwhelming at first, but I soon realised that we are key to the future of the industry and that it is fundamental that apprenticeships remain to grow and be acknowledged.

“To conclude, I jumped at the opportunity to speak with other apprentices from a range of companies and hearing what they had to say about their experiences. I shall be seeing some of them at College. A fantastic day, with fantastic people.”

Merrin Jupp (right)

“Attending the Southern Manufacturing Apprentice of the Year awards was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the achievements of apprentices in the south as well as find out more about other companies and the work that they do. It was a chance to recognise the hardworking people from different manufacturing businesses in the area as well as being able to talk to others who had taken this path in order to work towards their career. Receiving a tour around the Manufacturing Technology Centre really was a privilege and put into perspective the amazing work that goes on in the manufacturing industry.”