Mansfield apprentice in line to become nation’s best

Leanne Cooke, who has been named the East Midlands vocational learner of the year
Leanne Cooke, who has been named the East Midlands vocational learner of the year

A FEMALE engineering apprentice who is excelling in a male-dominated industry has won a regional competition representing some of the country’s best vocational talent.

Leanne Cooke, an advanced apprentice at Nottingham Express Transit (NET), was selected by a panel of education experts as the VQ Learner of the Year 2011 for the East Midlands.

The 24-year-old, from Mansfield, is now in the running to be named as VQ Learner of the Year for England at the national awards ceremony later this month.

The awards form part of the fourth annual VQ Day – a national celebration for people who gain vocational qualifications – led by Edge, the independent education foundation, in conjunction with the vocational qualifications community.

Leanne, who studies at West Nottinghamshire College, will represent the East Midlands at the national ceremony on VQ Day – 22 June – when the overall VQ Learner of the Year for England will be announced.

The event, at Westminster Kingsway College in London, will be attended by business leaders, MPs and other VIPs from the education community. National awards will also be presented to winners in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on the day.

Leanne was nominated by her college assessor, Roger Martin, and infrastructure manager at NET, Angus Howie, for excelling in her work and studies – and being an outstanding example to other apprentices in her age group.

Angus said: “The team Leanne works in is exclusively male and all over the age of 40 but she’s fitted in brilliantly and has earned the respect of her peers. Leanne has exceeded our expectations and is proving to be a real asset to the company, so we’re especially proud of her winning this regional award.”

Leanne, who studies at The Engine – the college’s Mansfield-based campus dedicated to engineering and electronics – each Monday, secured her apprenticeship ahead of male applicants based on her ability and commitment to the industry.

She combines her job with working towards an NVQ Level 2 in railway engineering, NVQ Level 3 in engineering maintenance and HNC in electrical and electronic engineering – making her the only NET apprentice to study at all three levels at the same time.

Leanne said: “I was totally overwhelmed to discover I’d been selected as the East Midlands winner. I really enjoy my work and studies in engineering and always aim to perform to the best of my ability.”

“I’m looking forward to attending the national VQ event in London with my dad, who is really proud of my award success,” she added.

Nearly 200 learners were nominated in total, with nominations judged by a panel comprising of representatives from Edge, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Association of Colleges and Westminster Kingsway College.