UCEM’s Built Environment Apprenticeship Awards 2024

Posted on: 9 February, 2024

On Thursday 8 February, apprentices, employer representatives, alumni, staff and trustees came together to celebrate excellence across UCEM’s various apprenticeship programmes.








Held in line with National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), the ceremony was a chance to champion and recognise the impact of apprenticeships on the built environment. Once again, The Orangery, Cavendish Square, London provided the perfect location of the ceremony, blending the old and new as various generations of UCEM apprentices and alumni began arriving.

UCEM Vice Chancellor, Ashley Wheaton, opened the proceedings at 7pm. He spoke of the enormous challenges facing the built environment, from climate change and rapid urbanisation to the rise of AI, but revealed his faith in the current crop of apprentices to deliver the solutions needed to overcome them:

“I have no doubt that the apprentices in this room tonight, and their peers, will play a fundamental role in solving these challenges. Their insights and new ideas are desperately needed by an industry that is working hard to modernise, and to create more sustainable buildings for 21st century living, working and playing.

A panel on the importance of apprenticeships (with two UCEM alumni)

After his opening speech, Ashley introduced a panel to discuss the awareness of apprenticeships and how they began their career in the built environment. This panel included two UCEM alumni in Roy Albert, Technical Lead at Valuation Office Agency, and Annabel Huffer, Chartered Building Surveyor at Eddisons (and Apprentice of the Year at the 2023 awards).








When asked what schools can do to help people understand the value of apprenticeships as a career route, Annabel described apprenticeships as ‘a best kept secret’, responding:

“The important thing is the awareness of apprenticeships, and how there are so many different routes you can go through. Not everyone can go to university, just as not everyone is necessarily suited for an apprenticeship, but both of these options need to be there for them to help them make the right decision for their career.”

Similarly, Roy pointed to his experiences in outreach programmes as evidence of the lack of awareness surrounding apprenticeships:

“A lot of it is to do with communication… There’s still a misconception as to what ‘apprenticeship’ means. I’ve performed outreach to schools and people are still surprised that there are programmes where you can be Chartered, and systems where you’re working and getting paid at the same time.”

Presenting the awards

Ashley then passed over to Amanda Clack, Chair of the Board of Trustees at UCEM, to present the awards and congratulate the winners over the following categories:

Employer Representatives

Large Company

  • Will Tobin – Rider Levett Bucknall

Read Will’s profile: Championing apprentices from the technical team

SME Employers

  • David Ashford – Ward Williams Associates

Read David’s profile: Growing an apprenticeship scheme from the ground up

Public Sector Employers

  • Sarah Baker – East Lindsey District Council

Apprentice of the Year – Undergraduate

  • Jodi-Ann Morgan

Read Jodi-Ann’s profile: Working, earning and studying simultaneously through an apprenticeship

  • Devon Jackson

Read Devon’s profile: Seamlessly switching employers mid-apprenticeship

Apprentice of the Year – Postgraduate

  • Adam Stride

Read Adam’s profile: A fourth-generation bricklayer-turned-surveyor

Rising Star

  • Leanne Conroy

Read Leanne’s profile: Back to UCEM for a Master’s after 20 years

  • Dontae Francois

Read Dontae’s profile: From building enthusiast to real estate professional

UCEM Staff Member

  • Jenny Cairns

Academic Excellence

  • James Asprey (Undergraduate)
  • Aric Asbridge (Postgraduate)

Vice Chancellor’s Choice

  • Sam Rix

On winning the Rising Star award, Leanne Conroy of Vail Williams commented:

“When I found out I was nominated for the Rising Star award, I questioned whether there had been a mistake! I truly didn’t think I fit the criteria; it was a case of all those misconceptions of a what an apprentice is.  And that’s exactly what they are – misconceptions.

“When my name was called out that I had actually won, I was genuinely completely shocked but totally honoured and my husband, who was watching the live stream at home, said he jumped up from the sofa!

“I know myself and a fellow apprentice both got recognised for this award win but I know the hard work, commitment and dedication that goes into doing what we are doing and in my eyes, every single one of us on this journey is a rising star.”