George Ritchie beat a field of strong competitors to be named North East Apprenticeship Champion in the regional final of the National Apprenticeship Awards 2015.
Already recognised for his commitment to and support for apprenticeship schemes and the chemical and process industries with an MBE in the recent Queen’s New Year’s Honours, George, 67, from Wingate will now go through a national judging process in the hope of becoming a national finalist.
He said: “My first reaction to winning the award was ‘Who, me?’ I was up against a number of good people who have done a lot for apprenticeships in the region so it came as a bit of a surprise.
“I was quite humbled to be honest. I immediately thought back to my parents – especially my dad – who was a coalminer. He was adamant that he didn’t want me to follow him down the mines and was keen that I got into engineering. Now, 50 years later, I hope he and my mum are looking down on me and are as proud as I feel to be recognised in this way and also to have the support of my own wonderful family.”
The Awards, now in their twelfth year, are run by the National Apprenticeship Service and recognise excellence in two areas: businesses that grow their own talent with apprentices and apprentices who have made a significant contribution to their workplaces.
George’s award recognised his outstanding commitment to championing the provision of apprenticeships for young people in the region.
With a long and distinguished background in engineering, he has held a variety of senior production and management roles in a career starting at Steetley in Hartlepool in 1965 and has just passed his 50th year in industry. He moved on to roles with ICI, Enron and Sembcorp Industries Group before retiring in October 2014 from his Senior Vice President position. He recently joined px Limited as a part time Associate Director – consultant.
In recent years he led the team which created the successful Tees Valley Production Technician Advanced Apprenticeship and the Tees Valley Apprenticeship Programme, which not only protected 150 ‘at risk’ apprentices on Teesside during the worst recession in nearly a century but created a further 150 apprentice places.
For the past seven years he was a member of Cogent Sector Skills Council – representing chemical manufacturers – and chaired the Chemicals Advisory Council and the Audit Committee. He has also served as the Chairman of the Science Industry Partnership North East Working and currently chairs the North East Region Apprenticeship Ambassadors for the National Apprenticeship Service. George also represents the region on the National Apprentice Ambassadors Network and is part of North East Process Industries Cluster (NEPIC) Leadership team.
Sue Husband, Director of the National Apprenticeship Service, said: “Apprenticeships deliver for businesses, individuals and the economy. They enable people to gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed, in some cases up to degree level, while working and earning. And for businesses, hiring apprentices is a productive and effective way for them to grow their own talent by developing a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce.
“The National Apprenticeship Awards enable talented apprentices and committed employers to receive the recognition they richly deserve. They not only help celebrate the achievements of apprentices and businesses, allowing them to gain the credit for investing in their own futures, but they drive up quality and encourage others to get involved.”
To find out more about the National Apprenticeship Awards, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/national-apprenticeship-awards