A Strathclyde Graduate Apprentice who led the nightshift in his factory to produce PPE for NHS workers has been named Apprentice of the Year at Scotland’s Apprenticeship Awards.

It was a double win for Samir Khan-Young, who was also victorious in Scotland’s Graduate Apprentice of the Year category, which was sponsored by the Scottish Funding Council.

The virtual event took place on Thursday night and was delivered by Skills Development Scotland, and saw the 25-year-old personally commended by Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair work and Culture, Fiona Hyslop for his pandemic effort.  

Samir’s win also marks the third year in a row Strathclyde has taken the honour, with Justyna Dabrowska picking up the award for her work with Peak Scientific Instruments in 2018 while studying at the University, and GlaxoSmithKline engineer, David MacKenzie winning a year later.

Thales employee Samir started his Engineering: Design and Manufacture Graduate Apprenticeship at Strathclyde in 2017 and is set to be among the first graduates of the course in November this year.

The 25-year-old says his proudest achievement to date has been his nightshift stints for Thales’ Manufacturing Team in Govan as they produced the vital PPE for frontline workers at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Rewarding experience

Samir, who even came into the factory on weekends off to help, said: “To be named as the winner all came as a bit of a shock. It’s lovely that my colleagues at Thales thought highly enough of me to nominate me in the first place. 

“I wasn’t even expecting to become a finalist – to win the Graduate Apprentice of the Year category and become Scotland’s Apprentice of the Year has been a massive surprise. 

“It was great to put my skills to good use during lockdown as part of the nightshift team who were making PPE for NHS staff. It was a rewarding experience.” 

Samir previously completed a Modern Apprenticeship at Thales, and was keen to progress to the Graduate Apprenticeship to push himself personally and professionally. 

He added: “I’m delighted and want to thank everybody who has helped me along the way.

“It’s not just saying that I’ve done something good, but is a credit to everybody at Thales and to the University of Strathclyde and reflects all the fantastic support I’ve had.

“This is just the beginning for me. I left school to work at 17 and the Graduate Apprenticeship has opened up new doors. I can look at going into Design Engineering or management, opportunities that weren’t there before.”

Professor Scott MacGregor, the University’s Vice-Principal, said: “Samir’s awards are richly deserved and fitting recognition of his hard work and commitment in both his workplace and to his learning.

“His efforts to help produce PPE during the pandemic are commendable and show that the desire to make a positive impact on the world comes naturally to students and graduates of Strathclyde.

“As a place of useful learning we are also proud that our graduate, modern and foundation apprenticeships offer employees access to high level skills and the opportunity to secure a career and qualification. It is particularly pleasing to note that this is the third consecutive year that the Graduate Apprentice of the year award has been made to a Strathclyde student.”

The Scottish Apprenticeship Awards recognised the resilience and hard work of Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprentices

Crucial role

Chair of Skills Development Scotland, Frank Mitchell said: “Businesses backing talent through apprenticeships will play a crucial role in supporting Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic.   

“The Scottish Apprenticeship Awards show the value apprentices add to employers and the economy.  

“In the most challenging of years, our fantastic winners and finalists show that apprenticeships provide the skills that employers and Scotland need for the future.” 

Fiona Hyslop said: “I offer my heartfelt thanks to all our apprentices, and the businesses supporting them. Your continuous hard work and commitment during this incredibly challenging time is appreciated by everyone. 

“Samir’s confidence and capability has grown throughout his Modern and Graduate Apprenticeship, putting the skills and knowledge gained to good use by helping others succeed. 

“I’d also like to personally commend Samir for his critical role in our Covid-19 response. He took significant responsibility to produce PPE to protect our frontline NHS workers. 

 “This award is a fantastic achievement and Samir should be thoroughly proud of himself. We are right behind him and will continue to do everything we can to support our apprentices and young people.”