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The Corporation

Posted: 17/11/16

National award for apprenticeship champion Dame Asha

Leading educationalist Dame Asha Khemka has scooped a prestigious national accolade for championing and promoting apprenticeships.

  • Deputy principal Andrew Martin (second left) accepts the award on Dame Asha’s behalf from Alan Hill, of The Pathway Group, joined by hosts for the evening Suzi Mann and Guz Khan.
  • Dame Asha said she was "proud and humbled" to receive the award.

The principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College was named winner of the Overall Commitment to Apprenticeships award at the first-ever Asian Apprenticeship Awards, held earlier this month at a glittering gala evening in Birmingham.

Organised by The Pathway Group, the awards showcase the talent and hard work of apprentices within the BME Asian community and recognise the contribution of employers and training providers.

They are also designed to encourage more young British Asians to take up apprenticeships, as they are currently under-represented and are considered a vital element in achieving the Government target of creating an additional three million apprentices by 2020.

Under Dame Asha’s leadership, West Nottinghamshire College has become one of the largest and most successful colleges in the UK, with more than 30,000 students across the country. Last year, it trained 14,692 apprentices, of which 5,003 (21%) were from a BME background, and its success rates are in the top 10% of all providers nationally.

“This is a truly remarkable story and is largely down to the vision and drive of Dame Asha,” said Safaraz Ali, chairman and founder of the Asian Apprenticeship Awards.

“She is a truly inspirational figure who will only accept the best and has demonstrated this in her work with young people, employers and the community in which she works.

“We need more people like Dame Asha to help us to achieve our goals of getting more young Asians to become apprentices.”

Dame Asha, who was born in India, has won many awards in recognition of her work and is one of the best known and highly-respected figures in the further education sector today.

“She is truly a worthy winner and we celebrate all that she has done, and continues to do, to promote apprenticeships,” added Mr Ali.

Although Dame Asha was unable to attend the ceremony to collect her award in person, she spoke proudly about receiving the honour.

Dame Asha said: “I am both proud and humbled to win this award. As a college, we consistently strive to deliver outstanding training to individuals and employers across the UK, and I personally never tire of promoting and championing the life-enhancing opportunities that apprenticeships provide.

“It is therefore an honour to be recognised alongside some of the most deserving apprentices and employers within our communities.”

The award was accepted on Dame Asha’s behalf by the college’s deputy principal, Andrew Martin.

More than 500 guests attended the ceremony, held on Thursday 10 November at The Holiday Inn Hotel in Birmingham, including Ziauddin Yousafzia, father of Malala, the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Laurette.

Hosts for the evening were Suzi Mann from the BBC Asian network and Guz Khan, an actor, writer and stand-up comedian.

It is the latest award that Dame Asha has received over the last decade, with others including the Woman of the Year title from then-Prime Minister David Cameron, an inaugural Dadabhai Naoroji Award from then-Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Businesswoman of the Year title, Asian Woman of Achievement award, and the National Jewel Award for Excellence in Healthcare and Education.

She was recognised for her services to further education with an OBE in the 2009 New Year’s Honours List and a Damehood in the 2014 Honours List.