A female apprentice from SP Systems has won this year’s Apprentice of the Year in the UK Plastic Industry Awards, sponsored by Cogent, and intends to share her success by promoting entry into the composites industry for women at roadshows around the UK.
The award and cheque for £1000 GBP was presented to Leah Groves by the PMMDA (Plastics Machinery Manufacturers & Distributors Association) along with Brian Manning, Cogent Polymer Skills Adviser, at an award ceremony held last week in London.
“This year has set new standards in the number and quality of entrants. The candidates straddled training and development across many disciplines to include, tool-making, project engineering, quality engineering, pigment formulation & colour matching and in the case of the winner Leah, composites processing. Thanks must also go to the PMMDA for awarding a cheque of £1000 to the winner of this category.””
The resulting shortlist of five candidates were interviewed by a panel of judges at the PDM exhibition in Telford. The judges said this year’s winner had the makings of a company and industry champion – in the same way she currently acts as a champion for young people and, in particular, women in the polymer industry.
The judges remarked that Leah was adamant that more young people should enter the industry – in particular women. And she is doing something to ensure this happens – by presenting at careers road-shows for Island schools.
Leah is spending her foundation year studying for an engineering BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) at the Isle of Wight college. During her semester breaks she works at SP’s St Cross site in Newport and is currently gaining experience in the process engineering department.
Leah joined SP without any prior knowledge of composites but responded by producing a range of composite samples and described the materials and stages required to form a composite from resin and woven materials – including glass, carbon fibre and Kevlar.
Leah commented: “I want more young people to become aware of the rewarding careers that are possible in this sector. There is plenty of support on the Island with the college and companies such as SP Systems, young people just need to become more aware of the varied careers that they could get involved in.”
During the first year of her apprenticeship, Leah completed pallet truck training, health and safety training and has also concentrated on lean manufacturing – achieving “”best practice”” manufacturing skills already. She produced a manufacturing report, which impressed her mentor and management, as it questioned a working practice on a machine. Her researched suggestions saved the company money with only a small investment and also made her colleague’s working environment easier.
When Leah completes her HND she will start a foundation degree in Engineering. She’s no stranger to the spotlight – she recently won the Isle of Wight College’s Mechanical Engineering Student of the Year 2003/4 award.
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