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Navy's top apprentices singled out

11 March 2020
The achievements and accomplishments of Royal Navy apprentices – and their mentors – over the past 12 months were rewarded on Nelson’s flagship.

Men and women who have demonstrated commitment, excellence and achieved things in their departments which made them stand out from their peers were invited aboard HMS Victory in Portsmouth for the Royal Navy’s 2020 Apprenticeship Awards.

Nominees represented a cross section of talents, roles and abilities, including the creation of new software, taking responsibility for a section and managing the installation of equipment. The leadership skills exhibited by apprentices was particularly impressive, especially considering their junior rank.

Apprenticeships remain at the heart of training across all branches; the training delivered and the accreditation being achieved, is providing essential foundation blocks for personnel to build successful careers and to reach their full potential.

In addition to individual achievement awards, this year a ‘best unit’ title was introduced to acknowledge efforts to mentor and support the apprentices in their charge.

Top of the apprentice tree in the aviation world these past 12 months was Leading Air Engineer Technician James McInnes, responsible for maintaining the Merlin Mk2s of 824 Naval Air Squadron at Culdrose.

The 29-year-old works the slip watch (overnight) at Culdrose, overseeing work on helicopters which are used daily for training.

“I’ve always enjoyed tinkering with things and this job appeals to me. It allows me to get stuck into fixing the aircraft and get my hands dirty,” James said.

Lieutenant Commander Lee Rigby, 824’s air engineer officer, said: “It gives me enormous pleasure to see LAET McInnes gain recognition for his achievements and he should be rightfully proud of receiving this award amongst a very competitive field.”

The engineering award was presented to submarine weapon engineer Leading Engineer Technician Taylor-Jade Kelsey whose work helping to ready new Astute-class submarine HMS Audacious stood out.

LOGS(CS) Lisa Williams from HMS Dauntless took the logistics awards; she was one of the first stewards to volunteer to train as a chef under Project Unify, since when she’s impressed her shipmates and demonstrated abilities expected of more senior personnel.

Apprentice Engineer Reece Gresham is the Royal Fleet Auxiliary apprentice of the year, impressing tutors at Sultan both with his grasp of the subject and his work ethic, studying late into the night to get the best possible results.

Royal Marine apprentice of 2020 is 45 Commando’s Marine William Piper – best rifle shot during training where he also excelled in the field and in leadership. He’s continued in the same vein at RM Condor and has also been selected to represent the RN at karate. 

The RN’s advanced apprentice of 2020 is Leading Engineer Technician Timothy Colgate of HMS Montrose who’s been both an impressive communications sections engineer aboard the frigate and a superb role model for junior WEs thanks to his “infectious enthusiasm” and “can-do attitude”.

Leading Air Engineer Technician Ben Welsby of 825 Naval Air Squadron was singled out for the personal achievement award. The fast-tracker has learned his trade – and about the Fleet Air Arm – rapidly, passed every academic/professional challenge ahead of schedule and took gold in the national World Skills competition… beating the best apprentices in civvy street.

No apprentice can succeed without the support of dedicated, enthusiastic instructors – also recognised aboard HMS Victory. CPO Robert Geldart of the Catering Services Shore Establishment Team based at HMS Collingwood stood out as the Champion of the Year, “an inspiration to junior rates” in the culinary world.

And the best unit when it comes to nurturing apprentices is HMS Albion which, inter alia, took 48 new LET(ME)s under its wing and gave them “unwavering support”… at the same time as promoting 18 ETs. The ship proved “pivotal” in the success of the accelerated apprentice programme – especially considering the operational demands placed upon the nation’s flagship.

“Apprentices are at the heart of our Navy,” said Rear Admiral Phil Hally, the RN’s Director of Personnel and Training, who presented the winners with their awards.

“All the finalists should be proud of what they have achieved throughout their apprenticeship journey. They have inspired all of us here, but most importantly, they continue to inspire those around them, their colleagues and the next generation of apprentices.”

All the finalists should be proud of what they have achieved throughout their apprenticeship journey. They have inspired all of us here, but most importantly, they continue to inspire those around them, their colleagues and the next generation of apprentices

Rear Admiral Phil Hally, the RN’s Director of Personnel and Training

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