WEC Group Celebrates Success at Annual Apprentice of the Year Awards 2023

Welding and fabrication specialists WEC Group hosted their 13th annual Apprentice of the Year awards ceremony on Thursday 30th November. The event, which was held at the Group’s state-of-the-art purpose-built engineering training academy facility on Walker Park, celebrated the fantastic achievements of WEC Group apprentices over the previous 12 months.

In attendance were current and former apprentices, WEC colleagues, friends, family and esteemed guests, including the Member of Parliament for Rossendale and Darwen Sir Jake Berry who opened the evening with an insightful speech, reaffirming the government’s commitment to apprenticeships

The ceremony included awards for a wide range of categories, including Welding Excellence, Outstanding Academic Achievement, Business Innovation, Commitment and Machining Excellence. Students who successfully completed their first 12 months were also presented with trophies, ahead of the main awards of the evening.

Steve Hartley, Managing Director of WEC Group said: “It’s been fantastic to once again be able to celebrate the amazing achievements of our apprentices. Year on year they continue to produce amazing work and we could not be prouder of them. Apprentices are an essential part of our business and are central to our future growth plans. This year’s event was extra special as it celebrated the first group of apprentices to complete their first 12 months here at our new Engineering Academy”

The state-of-the-art Engineering Academy opened in September 2022 after a 2-year construction process, and a £3m private investment from Steve Hartley without any government funding. Despite very challenging conditions brought about by multiple lockdowns, WEC Group’s dedicated team including many apprentices pushed through with the build and continued the vital construction work to get the new training facility up and running. The company’s welding and fabrication apprentices fabricated the steelwork for the building and many of the internal components, including staircases, work benches, training bays and the automatic entry gates.

The awards presentation was held in the academy’s purpose-built conference room, with food and drinks later served on the shop floor area of the training facility. Parents and guests also had the opportunity to test their welding skills on the company’s new Lincoln Electric Virtual Welding Simulator.

Apprentice of the year 2022
The highlight of the evening was the awarding of the two main awards of the night. The Rising Star Award was presented to Owen Croft, before Oliver Kershaw took home the highly coveted prize of Apprentice of the Year 2023. The awards capped off an amazing couple of weeks for both Owen and Oliver who beat over 100 other apprentices to win silver and bronze medals in the Construction Metalwork Category at the World Skills National event held in Greater Manchester.

Kris Mercer, WEC Engineering Academy Training Manager said: “Oliver is genuinely passionate about engineering and he has shown real dedication to learn whilst working on any task given. He has shown fantastic potential over the past year and we were delighted to present him with the Apprentice of the Year Award for 2023. It was also fantastic to be able to award the Rising Star Award to Owen, who has shown great innovation across the year. We also couldn’t be prouder that the lads took home silver and bronze at the recent National World Skills Event, beating other apprentices from around the country”

Kris added; “We have historically taken on between 10-15 apprentices each year and we were proud to unveil on the evening WEC Group’s new vision to train an additional 400 apprentices over the next 10 years. Apprenticeships are the future of our industry and this annual event celebrates WEC’s ongoing commitment to apprenticeships. We were thrilled to be once again awarded the Large Employer of the Year title at the National Apprenticeship Awards for the North West, for the 7th time in 9 years, whilst being Highly Commended on a national level”