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You’re hired! Navy’s top apprentices – and their champions - rewarded

3 January 2024
The homes of 14 sailors, Royal Marines and Civil Servants are adorned with engraved glassware – their reward from the Service’s annual apprenticeship awards.

The awards were introduced in 2015 to celebrate the commitment and dedication of personnel striving to complete their apprenticeship as well as those who support/teach/mentor them.

There are seven ‘apprentices of the year’ across seven categories (warfare, engineering, logistics, aviation, Royal Marines, RFA and Civil Service), plus awards for apprentices whose personal achievements stood out the most, and the champion of the year title for those who offer the most support and encouragement.

Ninety-eight in every 100 ratings who join today’s Navy – the RN itself, Royal Marines or RFA - are enrolled on an apprenticeship scheme.

That provides the foundation upon which to build a successful career, across all specialisations, ranging from engineering to chef.

The leading warfare apprentice is Able Seaman (AWT) Brandon Dunlop of HMS Diamond, the first person to achieve a distinction in his End Point Assessment who has continued to perform to a high standard, including filling workforce gaps at the leading hand level.

Marine Engineer ET Sam Whittaker of patrol ship HMS Forth is top engineering apprentice in the Fleet. His impressive attitude and momentum earned him greater responsibility than someone of his rank would normally hold, and has risen to every challenge. 

Although not an apprentice PO Rachel Mayer (RFA Tideforce) took the Royal Fleet Auxiliary title. The senior rating has gone above and beyond to support apprentices with citations from the apprentices themselves stating she gave an individualised approach to training and that they stayed in the RFA because of her influence.

Able Seaman (Catering Services) John Nixon of HMS Triumph is the logistics apprentice of the year for demonstrating ability and leadership qualities by mentoring juniors and creating an apprenticeship training booklet… which is now being looked at by the apprenticeship team for wider distribution. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Naval Airman Brad Sealey is the top aviation apprentice for the grit and determination he demonstrated working through elements of his role and apprenticeship which he struggled with. He now continues to drive self-improvement by taking on secondary roles and volunteering for briefs and inductions.


Taking the Royal Marine honour is Lance Corporal Salvadore Cannatella (45 Commando) who showed exceptional leadership in spurring on his peers, and acted as a superb mentor for a struggling marines; his tuition and guidance helped them to reach the required standard.

And Nathan Finlayson (Policy Secretariat) is the RN Civil Service apprentice of 2023 for using the skills and theories he learned to introduce a new Business Partners Initiative which has had glowing feedback. 

The Commandant’s Award for Apprenticeship Excellence – presented to the person who’s gone above and beyond in assisting with the wider apprenticeship programme – was presented to Probationary Leading Engineering Technician Joel Shaw (HMS Collingwood). He’s consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership and a drive to further himself, including helping the apprenticeship team at various outreach events.

The champion award is shared among three sailors: POET(WESM) Danny Dunbar (HMS Vanguard), who improved the administration and management of apprentices onboard so well that it stood out during a FOST inspection; CPO Richard Dover (Fleet Support Unit), in part for his work as an apprenticeship advocate aboard HMS Prince of Wales; and WO1 ET(MESM) Stephen McDonald (Submarine Flotilla) whose efforts have been instrumental in improving the management of ME submariner apprentices.

The personal achievement award also goes to three personnel: AB(CS) Lianne Mayes, who’s gone from strength to strength in the galley, despite suffering initial setbacks in completing her apprenticeship. She dedicated time and effort to complete it and is now helping to develop the junior members of the team; 43 Commando’s Marine Ethan McDowell exuded enthusiasm and an exceptional level of commitment to his development, which made him stand out from his peers; and weapons engineer LET Michael McNeillie (HMS Albion) who was going to leave the Service after a bereavement, losing motivation and ambition. Through his tenacity and commitment, his passion was reinvigorated and has now received a positive recommendation for promotion.


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