Apprenticeship Awards: Training helps both businesses and individuals

Most 19-year-olds are still trying to figure out what they want to do in life.

But thanks to on-the-job training through an apprenticeship, Sam Wood already has his career set out in front of him.

Sam runs Stephensons coffee shop in Chesterfield with his mother, Claire.

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The 19-year-old began at the business when it was under different ownership, as a level two front of house apprentice through Learning Unlimited - part of Chesterfield College.

He quickly realised hospitality suited him, and pushed on with his training. His mother swapped teaching for small business ownership, and together the pair have made a success of Stephensons, even opening a second branch.

Sam has now completed his level three apprenticeship and is looking at the next stage of study. He also manages apprentices of his own.

He said: “A lot of university graduates finish their studies and aren’t sure what they want to do in life. I’m younger than most graduates and I think myself fortunate to be in the position that I know exactly what I want to do.

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“I have gained the essential skills needed to be a success in this industry already. I love working in this industry, I get to work with colleagues who I class as my friends and I meet new people every day, so for a people person like me it’s perfect - there’s nothing better than putting a smile on a customer’s face.”

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For Claire, the benefits of apprenticeships are not confined to the individual.

“As much as it’s a huge opportunity for an apprentice it’s also a huge opportunity for us,” she said.

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“Every apprentice brings something different to the table and they all help to grow our business.

“All of the apprentices who have joined us have progressed positively by either gaining a job here full time or going on to university in one case. As an expanding business we find ourselves in the position of needing more middle managers so apprenticeships are the perfect way to mould someone into those roles.”

Johnston Press titles in South Yorkshire and the North Midlands, including The Star and the Doncaster Free Press have launched an awards scheme to recognise the increasing value of apprenticeships to the success of the region.

Categories include small, medium and large employers of the year, SME and large newcomers of the year, mentor of the year and Mansfield employer of the year.

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The awards will be presented on Tuesday, May 16. Learning Unlimited is one of our sponsors.

For more details, including online entry form and criteria for each category - visit

The closing date for entries is Friday, March 31.