View our 2022 winners hall of fame.

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Apprentice of the Year 2022

Employer of the Year 2022

Apprentices Hall of Fame


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    Olivia Buckle

    Care Assistant at Richden Park Care Home

    Category: Adult Care and Healthcare Apprentice of the Year - Sponsored by TQUK

    “I can honestly say I wouldn't be the carer I am today without the apprenticeship and the life experience I’ve had.”

    Why an apprenticeship?

    I had a difficult childhood and at 16, I dropped out of college with no qualifications and no idea of what to do with my life. From the age of 12, I’d cared for my grandmother and it was her neighbour who suggested I try working in the care industry. He ran a specialist residential learning centre for adults with learning disabilities called Broughton House and offered me a voluntary role to see if I liked it. I took to it immediately and quickly realised this was my purpose in life. I loved the people I worked with and getting to know all the clients. I was only working there a few months when he suggested I do a L2 Adult Care Worker apprenticeship. I was only 16 and really nervous about a return to learning but I also knew I’d found a passion for the role and, with a lot of encouragement, I decided to go ahead. After realising that an apprenticeship could work around my job, it seemed a great opportunity to pursue a career in adult care.

    Benefitting my business

    Starting an apprenticeship wasn’t an easy decision because of my lack of self-belief but as soon as I found my feet and got to know my lovely Training Consultant Zoe Crawford, I began to feel at ease. I quickly went from rock bottom confidence at the start to being allocated individual clients to care for.

    I was also lucky to have a manager that recognised my natural talent and determination to find different ways of communicating with residents. For example, there was one girl at the centre who was reluctant to join in any activities and no-one could find a way to communicate with her. I made it my mission to find a way! I began by watching her hand movements and how she expressed herself facially. I used my initiative to observe her and then created different communication techniques for her to try. I tried sensory and technological devices such as vocal boxes that can be hit to speak on someone’s behalf. After six months, we found a way to communicate and this made her so much happier. Her behaviour improved and she became much less aggressive. It was so rewarding to have such a positive impact on her life. As a result, staff are now trained in techniques to communicate with the girl and this information has been implemented into her care plan.

    I also took part in physical intervention training and used my initiative to challenge the trainer and other participants on best practice. The trainer was super impressed with my knowledge and now uses my example in other training about the importance of lawful restraint and person-centred care. As part of the apprenticeship. I also received training in moving and handling clients and was regularly asked to do demonstrations by my manager. This knowledge has been a fantastic boost to my confidence and is experience I can bring to any setting.

    The Connect2Care Difference

    The confidence and knowledge I gained through the apprenticeship allowed me to apply for a new role in a residential setting which is completely different to the day centre job I started out with. I’m so incredibly proud of what I have achieved especially as I had to take a break from the apprenticeship at one point due to personal issues and an unplanned change in living arrangements. I suffered with mental health problems during this time and fell behind with my apprenticeship work but thanks to Zoe, I managed to get back on track and pass my end-point assessment. I learnt a lot about myself during my apprenticeship and that anything is possible! When I look back and see how far I’ve come since leaving college with no qualifications, I can’t believe I’m the same person. I now work in a care home where I do night shifts and support residents with any needs they have during the night. I am working with people with dementia who require a lot of emotional support. Thanks to the apprenticeship, I feel fully equipped to make a success of this role and face everything head on with a smile. I can honestly say I wouldn't be the carer I am today without the apprenticeship and the life experience I’ve had.

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    Rose Brisland

    Early Years Educator at Stepping Stones Pre-School

    Category: Early Years Apprentice of the Year - Sponsored by TQUK

    “Thanks to my apprenticeship, I know how to ensure we have plenty of planning in place, maintain solid relationships with parents and carers, as well make sure we work together as a team.”

    Why an apprenticeship?

    After Sixth Form, I considered various career paths such as becoming a mental health nurse or teaching. Then I began working part-time in a pre-school as bank staff and following lockdown, a full-time position became available. With an ongoing staffing crisis in the Early Years sector, many staff members left during that time and I began to really throw myself into sessions, drawing on what I had learnt in L3 Health and Social Studies at Sixth Form and doing my own research into child development. I soon realised that I was good at my job and had a knack for understanding children, and I really wanted to build on this. My manager found out about the apprenticeships available and I completed a L2 Early Years Practitioner apprenticeship followed by a L3 Early Years Educator Apprenticeship to extend my learning and knowledge further. It was the best learning experience ever.

    Benefitting my business

    The staffing crisis within Early Years has been a huge challenge post-Covid. High staff turnover has meant having to train new recruits all the time and this is a constant worry as we are required to meet statutory child/staff ratios. Since starting my apprenticeship, however, I feel so much more confident about dealing with the challenges facing the sector and playing a pivotal role in helping to pull together as a team. I even stepped up as acting deputy manager at one point which I would never have thought possible a few years earlier.

    The apprenticeship has boosted my confidence levels in other ways too. I now feel capable of chatting with parents and having difficult conversations around a child's needs if necessary. For the business, it means I am an extra pair of helpful hands, someone who can answer enquiries confidently, make phone calls, run sessions and happily speak to parents and carers whatever the scenario.

    This knowledge makes a huge difference to team morale and has really helped support families in different ways as I’m now skilled in signposting families to other agencies or helping to put more support in place. We have also had to navigate all kinds of funding difficulties as we have a high number of additional needs at our setting which can be really stressful for staff trying to get MyPlans and EHCP underway. Thanks to the apprenticeship, I know how to ensure we have plenty of planning in place, maintain solid relationships with parents and carers, as well as make sure we work together as a team.

    The Connect2Care difference

    I am so glad I chose C2C to complete both my L2 and L3 apprenticeships. My training consultant Louise Woodhead was really helpful and supportive, often adapting lessons to suit my learning style. If I had any issues, I would ask Louise and she would support me in whichever way she could such as extending time on coursework or providing me with extra resources. Louise would often check in with me and I looked forward to our lessons together. The course gave me in-depth practical and theoretical knowledge which has now given me the confidence to consider Higher Education and complete a degree. I would highly recommend C2C to other practitioners due to the high quality of teaching that’s provided and the hugely practical benefits of being able to improve my practice with children, parents and other professionals.

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    Deborah Perry

    Funeral Arranger at W Howard & Son Funeral Services, Dignity Funerals

    Category: Funeral Services Apprentice of the Year - Sponsored by TQUK

    “I am able to contribute to business growth by training new recruits safe in the knowledge that I am passing on information on correct procedures that align with company ethos and ensure best practice across the board.”

    Why an apprenticeship?

    Having worked for Dignity for six years as a Funeral Arranger, I jumped at the chance to do an apprenticeship when the company advertised opportunities. Although I was well-established in my role, I had no formal qualification and I saw an apprenticeship as a way of developing new skills and knowledge to better support clients within our business.

    Starting the Level 2 Funeral Team Member has been a massive confidence boost for me. It has enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of the different stages of grief and recognise this in my clients so that I can adjust the way I communicate with them. I’m also able to share the new information and knowledge I’ve acquired to help colleagues in line with our company principles. These are all skills that result in the client feeling even more welcomed and understood, and will, I believe, boost the reputation of the business.

    Benefitting my business

    Although I knew how to do my job, the apprenticeship has enabled me to talk to different people within the industry and really understand the ‘who, what, when and why’ of my job. It has been truly fascinating to read research about the stages of grief and then apply that knowledge to customers. For example, working with a family whose loved one has committed suicide requires a very different approach to dealing with a family who has lost a child. By exploring the theory behind different ways of communicating, I have gained greater self-confidence in my approach, enabling me to recognise both best and worst practice. Excellent communication skills are essential when meeting a grieving client for the first time.

    It has been important and helpful for me to gain a greater understanding of why all the paperwork we complete is necessary. While much of our paperwork forms important legal agreements with clients, I would like to influence the way we streamline our internal systems in the future. With greater confidence in my skills, I now feel like an asset to the business. In this way, I can contribute to business growth by helping to support new team members safe in the knowledge that I am passing on information on correct procedures that align with company ethos and ensure best practice across the board.

    The Connect2Care difference

    With increased confidence throughout my learning journey, I am now looking to extend the reputation of the business by participating in more community activities to create a professional relationship with different groups of local stakeholders. I hope to have the opportunity to continue my development to the next level apprenticeship which would involve conducting a funeral, something I need to talk to my line manager about. If it wasn’t for the apprenticeship and the fantastic training I received from my Training Consultant Chris Willin and Knowledge Tutor Tashi Brown, I wouldn’t be thinking like this.

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    Karen Olivant

    Head of Activities at Newton House, Barchester Healthcare

    Category: Extra Mile Apprentice of the Year - Sponsored by PAL

    “The apprenticeship has taught me what excellent practice looks like and it’s great to be able to put this knowledge to good use.”

    Why an apprenticeship?

    Throughout my adult life, I’ve mainly worked in admin as a PA to a Legal Director, a compliance assistant and then in events and travel. After being made redundant, I tried my hand at vehicle sales but after a year, I realised this wasn’t for me and, although I worked with amazing people, I just didn’t feel fulfilled in my role. During this time, I had been helping my elderly neighbour who spent a lot of time at my house as she was lonely. I began to realise how much happiness I felt from giving the gift of my time and company. When the role of activities co-ordinator at Newton House came up, I just had to apply and seven years later I haven’t looked back. Doing an apprenticeship wasn’t something I’d considered (I thought they were just for young people!) until the activities divisional lead Hannah invited me to do an Adult Care Worker apprenticeship to boost my skills. I jumped at the chance. If being better at my role improved the lives of our residents, then I didn’t have to think twice.

    Benefitting my business

    The apprenticeship has enabled me to extend the knowledge I already had to make me even more aware of the environment that I work in. Although we are extremely lucky to have excellent training within Barchester Healthcare, the apprenticeship has given me the confidence to implement a more structured and person centred activities programme to benefit our residents. This has had a hugely positive impact on residents as I’m able to plan activities knowing that I am doing everything possible for them. Discussions and workshops around equality and diversity have been a big part of the apprenticeship giving me greater awareness of how to make sure activities are all-inclusive.

    Working with people with many varied needs, I’ve learned to stretch myself when thinking of new ways to make sure every resident is included, for example, during an arts and crafts session, I make sure everyone has the opportunity to take part and has the right support. We’re also developing our regular multi-cultural events and activities which are popular with residents. The apprenticeship has taught me what excellent practice looks like and it’s great to be able to put this knowledge to use and support colleagues with ideas too. Calling on expert industry knowledge through Connect2Care has also widened my understanding of different areas within our setting such as utilising each resident’s personalised budget to best effect.

    The Connect2Care difference

    My confidence has really grown since starting my apprenticeship, and having to attend online workshops and group discussions has really boosted my presentation skills when putting forward ideas. It has also encouraged me to never question my capabilities, and not to set limitations on achieving. You are never too old to learn something new! My course leader at Connect2care was great - sometimes I’d message her out of work hours and she always assisted with my queries. My manager was incredibly supportive too with her open door policy and willingness to help me find any resources I needed. In the long term, I would love to share my passion and new skillset with other care settings to deliver person-centred activities to the highest standard possible across the company. I now have a nationally recognised care qualification and the apprenticeship has inspired me to aim to do the next level up.

Employers Hall of Fame


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    The Willows Day Nursery

    “The Willows Day Nursery prides itself on being a company that nurtures its staff and utilises their talents for the good of everyone.”

    Category: Small to Medium Employer of the Year

    Established in 2015 by owner Hayley Carver, The Willows Day Nursery offers full day care for children aged between three months and five years in a safe and secure learning environment.

    The setting has a ‘grow your own’ ethos across its three sites with 28 apprentices completing training since the business started.

    Hayley has a clear understanding of the benefits that training can bring via apprenticeships and for the last eight years, she has put into plan a learning and development strategy with national training provider and specialist in Early Years education, Connect2Care (C2C).

    By offering staff support and opportunities to progress in their careers, the setting is able to draw on their team’s unique skills and experiences to supplement their curriculum and successfully build a team of leaders with well-rounded skills, capable of working with all age groups.

    Hayley’s drive to enable her staff to achieve comes from the heart.

    “When I first started my own business eight years ago, I knew from personal experience how important great Early Years childcare is,” said Hayley. “I had my first baby at 17, a month before sitting my A-levels, and relied on day nurseries to allow me to work and progress. After helping out at my son’s nursery as bank staff, I discovered that I loved working with children and did a L3 Early Years and Childcare qualification followed by a Foundation Degree in Early Years and Education.

    “I worked my way up the ladder and now I own the nursery my son used to attend!

    “For me, apprenticeships play a crucial part in outstanding Early Years provision and I’m passionate about placing as many staff as possible on apprenticeships because I believe in giving people opportunities to succeed.

    “Also, as someone who is dyslexic, I always struggled with the classroom environment but was able to turn my hand to any practical challenge.

    “Everyone deserves a chance and a college environment is not suitable for everyone. I like all my staff to have a Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification as a minimum and our partnership with C2C has helped us work towards that whilst filling skills gaps and giving our staff the confidence to lead in all of our age groups.”

    Hayley believes C2C apprenticeships have helped her retain staff and keep up morale during some tough times recently. Out of 28 staff that have completed apprenticeships with The Willows Day Nursery, 17 are still employed at the setting. One of these learners was promoted to senior lead in the baby room after gaining a distinction.

    “I’m really proud of this retention figure,” said Hayley. “While some staff members left then came back, others left the sector all together in search of a different challenge. What I can say is that as soon as a team member has finished training, there is always someone else waiting to be signed up.

    “Not only are our apprentices able to gain a qualification, but they are also able to progress and the benefits of ‘growing my own employees’ through careful mentoring is immeasurable. It requires hard work, determination, and support from myself and the rest of the team.

    “Over the years, I have built a strong relationship with C2C Early Years Training Consultant Zoe McKay who is committed to supporting the apprentices and me as a business. She is always on hand to answer any queries and regularly takes time to speak with me and review all the apprentices and their progress which I find useful.

    “As a result, we have a team of confident Early Year practitioners that provide a high standard of care and quality teaching.”

    The Willows Day Nursery prides itself on being a company that nurtures its staff and utilises their talents for the good of everyone. Hayley has several staff incentive schemes in place to boost morale and teamwork. These include different staff rewards such as lucky dip envelopes with prizes ranging from days off leave, money, vouchers and spa days. During Wellbeing Week, she made up bags of hand cream and treats to support staff.

    The setting also enjoys playing a big part in the local community. It regularly collects food to support local food banks and contributes to safeguarding training in association with the local authority including making an information video for parents. Staff also make visits to a local care home.

    “Being visible in the local community is important to us and helps us build a reputation as a happy place to work,” added Hayley.

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    Greensleeves Care

    “We’re deeply proud to be working alongside our trusted partner C2C to give our team the skills and knowledge to excel in their careers.”

    Category: Large Employer of the Year

    Greensleeves Care provides exceptional 24-hour nursing care, specialist dementia care and residential support to older people across England. It has 1,500 employees across 26 care homes, and more than 25 years’ experience in delivering high quality care.

    Their mantra ‘You’re among friends’ is lived and breathed by the senior leaders and disseminates down to all their team.

    In a partnership with Connect2Care (C2C), the charity has developed its own industry-leading apprenticeship programme, aimed at developing future leaders and creating a team of home-grown care specialists. Training schemes include Level 2 The Principles of Dementia Care, Level 3 Lead Adult Care Worker and Level 2 End of Life Care.

    Learning and Development Manager Susan Harris said: “We believe in the career development of our colleagues across all care homes and support functions in Greensleeves Care and we’re proud to say that nine apprentices completed this year, 56 staff are currently undertaking an apprenticeship and more are ready to sign up!

    “We know that some people do not always want to climb the career ladder but even if they don’t want promotion, they all want to support our residents in the best way possible so offering them an apprenticeship that allows for knowledge and skill development is important. Once they have completed their apprenticeship, they may change their mind about career development or it may be something they consider in a few years' time.

    “For those who do aim for career promotion, we have a fantastic history of supporting people to do exactly that. Indeed, we have a number of people that have been with us for many years. Our current Home Manager started with us as a kitchen assistant at 16, whilst studying at college, and has worked her way through most job roles in the care home before becoming Home Manager. Of course, that is an exception rather than the rule, but we do enjoy genuinely good retention of our colleagues in comparison with most other care organisations, and I believe this is partly because of the excellent Greensleeves Care learning and development support and career progression.”

    As a registered care charity, and therefore not-for-profit, staffing ratios are better than most other homes because they do not need to make huge profits to keep shareholders happy. Their commitment and dedication to training, apprenticeships and working in the community is integral to their social impact strategy and their mission to ensure residents are provided with exceptional care and service.

    Susan added: “We’re deeply proud to be working alongside our trusted partner C2C and invest in our career changing apprenticeship programme to give our team the skills and knowledge to excel and shine in their career. Whether they're a front-line carer who aspires to be a leader, or new to the industry with a passion to offer outstanding care to our service users – we’ve got an apprenticeship for everybody. The team at C2C are industry experts and they ensure that our staff develop knowledge to help them grow and develop through the apprenticeship programme delivery.”

    At Greensleeves, every new team member completes a comprehensive training programme in the belief that great training is the foundation of great care.

    “We focus all our efforts on our residents whom we enable and support with great pride. It is a privilege to work in our residents’ home,” added Susan.