Trainee gas engineer Oliver Crutchfield, from Uckfield, was chosen out of nearly 200 of his peers to win an Apprentice of the Year accolade from his employer.
Oliver, 24, works for gas distribution company SGN and in addition to winning the top award he carried off a second one for Best Depot Apprentice in SGN’s Southern region.
Oliver, from Bridge Farm Road in Uckfield, joined the company in August 2012 and is just about to qualify as a gas engineer. Once qualified, he will work as an emergency engineer at SGN’s Sussex depot in Horsham.
Oliver said that he opted for an apprenticeship because he knew he didn’t want to stay in full-time education. “When my aunt told me SGN was looking for new apprentices after seeing an advert in her local newspaper, I didn’t waste any time in applying.
“Doing my training with SGN has allowed me to continue my studies and get more qualifications, while at the same time gaining really valuable on-site experience.
“It’s also given me the chance to experience lots of different aspects of the company’s business, from responding to emergency call-outs to replacing gas mains and installing new meters.”
Oliver’s mentor, Emergency Team Manager, Christian Bassett, said he was delighted the trainee’s efforts had been rewarded: “Ollie has shown a remarkably positive attitude over the past 12 months while doing his training as an emergency engineer, and going forward he will be a real asset to the Sussex team. I look forward to managing and coaching him on a daily basis as a fully qualified engineer.”
In deciding who should win the company’s Apprentice of the Year award, SGN’s Training team took into account the views of each apprentice’s mentor, their line manager and those who oversee the apprenticeship programme.
They were also judged on progress they had made and personal skills demonstrated over the past year.
Neil Snell, SGN Head of Training and Development, explained it wasn’t simply about which apprentice performed best academically, it was more of a broad judgement about their attitude, behaviour, performance and how they get on with other people.
“Oliver has been an all-round excellent performer, both in his formal training and when he works alongside his more experienced colleagues,” said Neil.
“In the short time he has been with us, he has already made a real and significant contribution to the company and he should be very proud of his achievements.”
Since launching its apprenticeship programme in 2008, SGN has recruited 164 apprentices for its nine depots in the South of England and a further 90 for its six depots in Scotland. Another 22 joined the company this autumn. It invests between £90,000 and £140,000 in each apprentice and that investment has been rewarded by the fact that the programme has a 97% retention rate.
The company is actively involved in the development of new Trailblazer apprenticeships for the gas sector, an initiative in which groups of employers work together to design apprenticeship standards to make them world class.
“We are constantly looking at ways of keeping our apprenticeship schemes fresh; this year’s intake are attending a five-day residential Outward Bound course as an integral part of their programmes,” Neil explained. “The aim of this is to develop their self-awareness and to introduce them to the benefits of working in a collaborative, supportive environment.”
Oliver was presented with the Apprentice of the Year Shield by Gary Barnes, SGN’s Director of Corporate Services.