Central YMCA Apprenticeship Awards 2022

Bringing together learners, MPs, partners and employers to promote apprenticeships and their positive impact on society.
8 March 2022

Central YMCA’s Annual National Apprenticeship Awards event was an evening of much-awaited and deserved celebration. Despite its postponement due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we were delighted to have been able to hold our event in the House of Commons once again after last year’s virtual ceremony.   

Hosted for the 8th consecutive year by Caroline Nokes MP, and sponsored by CognAssist and the Sanctuary Group, the event showcased the resilience and determination of our learners – and their supportive employers – in gaining their qualifications and developing their careers during this challenging time.  

For over 40 years now, Central YMCA, one of the UK’s leading education, health and wellbeing charities, has successfully trained thousands of learners each year and seen them go on to build rewarding and fulfilling careers. Over the past 10 years alone we have supported more than 20,000 apprentices.   

Levelling Up 

Our theme this year, 'Levelling Up', is in harmony with the Government’s national policy agenda and pertinent to Central YMCA’s passion of giving all young learners in its care, regardless of background or ability, every chance to fulfil their aspirations. When young people register on a Central YMCA course or apprenticeship over 84% are NEET, many of whom have not achieved a qualification in English and maths. With specialist support, expert teaching and nurturing Central YMCA learners begin to ‘level up’ their knowledge and achievements with over 90% of pre-apprenticeship learners successfully completing their qualifications and over 80% their apprenticeships.   


Arvinda Gohil, Chief Executive at Central YMCA said: 

“We have been “Levelling Up” as long as Central YMCA has been in existence. So this is nothing new to us, and it is a privilege to see the agenda of ‘Levelling Up’ being recognised by policymakers and government.”

“The extra-ordinary achievements of our learners and the support given to them by partner employers, overlaid with the personal support provided by Central YMCA, enables people from sometimes very difficult and challenging circumstances to realise their aspirations, providing a real opportunity for the future while also impacting their families, their neighbourhoods and society.” 

“We are celebrating the amazing achievements of the people we work with – our learners, our participants, and our partners.” 

The winners 

Five inspirational learners and one employer were recognized for their outstanding achievements. Click on each of their names below to read more about their stories and watch highlights from our video interview: 


Hearing from our speakers 

Caroline Nokes MP, our long-standing ambassador and host for the evening, presented Saffiyah Hussain with her award for Inspirational Pre-Apprentice Apprentice of the Year and Brats Nursery with their award for Employer of the Year, saying:


“If there is any organisation in the country that is synonymous with training and apprenticeships, it’s Central YMCA. They are a force to be reckoned with, and absolutely brilliant at not just celebrating apprentices and apprenticeships, but also at celebrating those fantastic employers. We all have to remember that for every apprentice, there is an employer who supports them throughout their training.”

“It really does make a difference to see Parliamentarians from across the House, and at every level of Government, attending and supporting our award winners.” 

Ed Miliband MP and Dame Rosie Winterton MP jointly presented Billy Spencer from Doncaster with his award for Inspirational Apprentice of the Year.

Ed Miliband MP, Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero said:

“What is really inspiring is that Billy has been determined to make something of his life, and a success of this apprenticeship. The most important thing tonight is Billy’s determination to succeed, and Central YMCA’s central role in helping him to succeed. That is the YMCA in action – making brilliant young people like Billy possible.” 


Dame Rosie Winterton MP, Deputy Speaker said: 

“I have been a long admirer of the work of the YMCA, and have been to a number of events... so I know what magnificent work is done, and what an inspiration it is to young people.” 


Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, presented Zara McDonald with her award for Apprentice Progression of the Year. He said:

“Apprenticeships provide young people - especially from disadvantaged backgrounds - the opportunity to climb the education and skills ‘ladder of opportunity’. They enable young people to earn while they learn, have no debt and get a good skilled job at the end. The work of Central YMCA could not be more important as they have a relentless focus on ensuring that those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have a chance to access this ladder of opportunity. We have a big skills deficit in this country, but we have a big social justice deficit too. The YMCA has a huge role to play as we build an apprenticeship and skills nation."


Alex Burghart MP, Apprenticeship and Skills Minister, presented Joanne Childerley with her award for Apprentice progression of the Year, saying:

“Apprenticeships really are ‘of the moment’... it’s been a long time coming. I have met people that are doing things that, even 10 years ago, people in the public wouldn’t have associated with apprenticeships... women building legal careers through apprenticeships, young men doing Artificial Intelligence digital courses for apprenticeships, but also people who are rebooting their career later in life... this is not just a young person’s sport anymore.” 

“It’s wonderful to see Joanne’s story, seeing how people coming back after having had a family use apprenticeships to get themselves into the workplace, to ‘earn while they learn’, to build up those social and professional contacts that create value for them as they take their career forward.”  


Nigel Huddleston MP, Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Minister, presented Olivia Tully with her award for Inspirational Pre-Apprentice of the Year. He said:

“As Sports Minister, it is my job to champion the role of sports, particularly for young people and in young peoples’ lives. We have heard how important opportunities for skills development are, and the role that sports can play. Thank you to Central YMCA for the apprenticeship program you’re doing, with that particular emphasis on sport.”