National honours for North East Ambassadors

January 8, 2024

Two Apprentice Ambassadors have been recognised for their outstanding contributions, at the annual “Apprenticeship Oscars”.

Paula McMahon, Engineer for Sir Robert McAlpine, was named national champion at the event, hosted by the Department for Education and held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London.

The North East Ambassador Network celebrated a double win, with GlaxoSmithKline degree apprentice, Francesca Hume, scooping the Degree Apprentice of the Year Award at the same event.

Paula McMahon

Paula works for the leading UK building and civil engineering company, Sir Robert McAlpine. Since starting life as a Civil Engineering Apprentice, she has held a variety of roles on high profile projects, which she now leverages for extensive promotion of apprenticeships. As a former apprentice, she showcases apprenticeships as a route to success.

Paula said: “It’s a huge honour to win this prestigious award, following on from previous winners from our region, Ian Green and George Ritchie, who have done so much to promote and showcase apprenticeships to such huge audiences.

“There is no better feeling than giving someone a chance and watching them flourish. I’m a huge advocate of apprenticeships and the opportunities they can provide and I’m lucky to work with some really talented, enthusiastic and highly-skilled apprentices who I have no doubt will one day be mentoring others in the future too.”

Paula, who is an Honorary Professor of Teesside University, is also part of the site safety, quality and sustainability leadership team at Sir Robert McAlpine, where she’s worked for the past nine years, and sits on a number of groups dedicated to making workplaces more welcoming and inclusive to all.

Francesca, who is a Packaging Professional Degree Apprentice at GSK, was singled out by judges for her ability to engage proactively with highly-skilled colleagues and teams from different departments, growing her own confidence and developing communication skills, which she uses to inspire young people to take up apprenticeships and careers in STEM.

Francesca Hume

She said: “I am thrilled to have been awarded the Department for Education Degree Apprentice of the Year award. Pursuing an apprenticeship with GSK and Sheffield Hallam University has allowed me to gain technical skills and confidence, helping me to progress in the workplace.

“I would recommend the packaging professional degree apprenticeship to anyone wishing to develop or upskill in the in industry.”

The National Apprenticeship Awards shine a spotlight on business and individual success and how apprenticeships boost business success and lead to dream careers.

NEAAN Co-Chair, Ian Green, said: “Paula is phenomenally dedicated and supremely talented and I can’t think of a more deserving winner of this national honour.

“Likewise, Francesca is bursting with talent and I think this will be among the first of many awards she’ll scoop in the future. Congratulations to both.”

North East Apprentice Ambassador Chair, Jessica Duff, said: “It’s great to see North East talent doing so well on the national stage.

“Francesca and Paula are fantastic Ambassadors and real assets to our regional network. I look forward to working with them in my new role as Chair, drawing from their experience and ideas.”


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