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The Corporation

Posted: 09/06/11

Female engineer on track for national award

A female engineering apprentice who is excelling in a male-dominated industry has won a regional competition representing some of the country’s best vocational talent.

Leanne Cooke, an advanced apprentice at Nottingham Express Transit (NET), was selected by a panel of education experts as the VQ Learner of the Year 2011 for the East Midlands.

The 24-year-old, from Mansfield, is now in the running to be named as VQ Learner of the Year for England at the national awards ceremony later this month.

The awards form part of the fourth annual VQ Day – a national celebration for people who gain vocational qualifications – led by Edge, the independent education foundation, in conjunction with the vocational qualifications community. 

Leanne, who studies at West Nottinghamshire College, will represent the East Midlands at the national ceremony on VQ Day – 22 June – when the overall VQ Learner of the Year for England will be announced. 

The event, at Westminster Kingsway College in London, will be attended by business leaders, MPs and other VIPs from the education community.  National awards will also be presented to winners in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on the day.

Leanne was nominated by her college assessor, Roger Martin, and infrastructure manager at NET, Angus Howie, for excelling in her work and studies – and being an outstanding example to other apprentices in her age group.

Angus said: “The team Leanne works in is exclusively male and all over the age of 40 but she’s fitted in brilliantly and has earned the respect of her peers.  Leanne has exceeded our expectations and is proving to be a real asset to the company, so we’re especially proud of her winning this regional award.”

Leanne, who studies at The Engine – the college’s Mansfield-based campus dedicated to engineering and electronics – each Monday, secured her apprenticeship ahead of male applicants based on her ability and commitment to the industry.

She combines her job with working towards an NVQ Level 2 in railway engineering, NVQ Level 3 in engineering maintenance and HNC in electrical and electronic engineering – making her the only NET apprentice to study at all three levels at the same time.

Leanne said: “I was totally overwhelmed to discover I’d been selected as the East Midlands winner.  I really enjoy my work and studies in engineering and always aim to perform to the best of my ability.”

“I’m looking forward to attending the national VQ event in London with my dad, who is really proud of my award success,” she added.

Peter Mitchell, interim chief executive at Edge and a member of the judging panel, said: “We are delighted to reward Leanne for her outstanding achievements. There are many paths to success and we hope that by recognising those learners who have used their vocational qualification to achieve their goals, more people will become open to the very real benefits of vocational study.”

Colleges, learning providers and employers around the country nominated their high-flying vocational students for the VQ Learner of the Year Awards, recognising their achievements and celebrating their success.

Nearly 200 learners were nominated in total, with nominations judged by a panel comprising of representatives from Edge, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Association of Colleges and Westminster Kingsway College.


More about VQ Day

The fourth annual VQ Day on 22 June 2011 will recognise the value of vocational qualifications and celebrate vocational achievement.

It also aims to raise awareness about the benefits of vocational qualifications and training, and recognise the role that vocational learning plays in society and the UK economy.

VQ Day is led by Edge, the independent education foundation, in conjunction with the vocational qualifications community.  It was launched in 2008 and has grown into a UK wide event recognised in the education calendar with celebrations across the UK. 

A vocational qualification is a recognised qualification at any level relating to a particular line of work or specific job role.  These qualifications have an emphasis on the assessment of practical skills and knowledge.  Examples include BTECs, City & Guilds, NVQ/SVQ, OCR Nationals, Apprenticeships, HNC/HNDs, VRQs, degrees with a largely vocational content and professional qualifications awarded through a recognised professional body.

For more information about VQ Day and the VQ Learner of the Year Awards visit www.vqday.org.uk