Higher Apprentice of the Year 2018
Tom is UK's top higher apprentice
Talented engineer Tom French was named Britain's Higher Apprentice of the Year at the prestigious Semta Skills Awards last night (Thursday March 1).
The 20-year-old from, Newcastle-under-Lyme beat off strong competition to win the Higher Apprentice of the Year award, sponsored by The Education and Training Foundation, at the Semta Skills Awards 2018 gala dinner in London hosted by BBC presenter Steph McGovern.
Tom French joined precision engineering firm KMF in Staffordshire at 16 to complete a 4-year engineering apprenticeship. After attending a very academic focussed high school and growing up within an academic focussed family, both parents working as teachers, an A-Level to University route was common. Undertaking an apprenticeship was a first for both his family and most of his cohort.
Breaking this mould took courage and placed extra pressure on Tom to excel within his chosen route, however after winning four awards at KMF's recent apprentice awards his decision is justified.
Tom, who is a welder said he was amazed to win the award. "I didn't think I had a chance. I try to get kids involved in STEM activities and to look at as an apprenticeship as a way into a career. The best thing about it is you are learning on the job while being paid and you always have the potential to progress. I would like to thank my parents and everyone at KMF."
Tom has consistently produced exceptional academic results and pursued every opportunity given to him by KMF, competing and winning Gold at the WorldSkills UK National Final Competition in 2015. He is now studying for a higher apprenticeship at Staffordshire University whilst working as a welding operative.
Knowing he wanted to progress to university, but with no viable course at the time, Tom provided feedback to Staffordshire University about the proposed course, which they subsequently introduced. He now promotes it and acts as a point of contact for all current and prospect graduates.
Last year, he gave over 100 hours of his own time to promote apprenticeships and help the wider community.
Ann Watson, CEO of Semta, the not-for-profit organisation tasked with skilling engineering and manufacturing in the UK said: "Tom is a very deserving winner of the Semta Skills Award and is an inspirational role model for others.
"In this the Year of Engineering, Tom's story of doing an apprenticeship, going on to higher education while working and winning Gold at the WorldSkills UK National Final demonstrates what a great career route engineering can be.
"If we are to achieve the 800,000 extra engineers we need over the next few years, it is vital we have more people like Tom in STEM careers to keep the skills talent pipeline flowing."
The Higher Apprentice of the Year runners up were: Rebecca Fisher, Rolls-Royce plc and Shannon Lynch, Jaguar Land Rover.
Watch Tom as he won his award at the 2018 Semta Skills Awards:
Watch Tom's finalist video and find out more about him: