Areas rated include skills development, career progression and training

Students and school leavers made their voices heard on Monday night at the third national Top Employers for School & College Leavers awards. Organised by, the awards recognise companies who are both raising awareness of and delivering apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and sponsored degrees.

Winners were decided based on the results of anonymous satisfaction surveys filled in by trainees on the relevant programmes (higher apprenticeships are assessed by higher apprentices, school leaver programmes by school leaver trainees and so on). Students and employees rated their companies based on their experiences, commenting on areas including skills development, career progression and salary. They also considered culture-based elements including working environment, work-life balance and overall job satisfaction.

This year's Top Employer for School & College Leavers was National Grid; the company also picked up the award for Best School Leaver Programme. The best intermediate, advanced and higher apprenticeship awards were won by Nomura, Tangerine PR and Visa Europe respectively, with Nestlé awarded the Best Sponsored Degree prize.

Other winners on the night included Hays Travel for Best Company Culture, Mayer Brown for Best for Job Satisfaction and Ginger Nut Media for Best Level of Support.

The awards also rewarded individual achievement from school and college leavers themselves, with an award for School or College Leaver of the Year. This year's recipient was Honeybea Youngman, an 18-year-old on Pret A Manger's school leaver programme. "We are just so proud of Honey and how much she's achieved," says Pret's School Leaver Programme Coordinator, Kate Nicholls. "She has grown up with us. She's a critical part of the shop, and has responsibility for running shifts even though she's still only 18. She knows how to be in control."

Youngman herself explains that she's enjoyed the experience of being in the workplace. "I have really loved the responsibility and independence that I have gained," she says. "I can honestly say it has been a great transition from school to work."

While 13 of the night's awards were decided based on satisfaction surveys, two more were decided by a student judging panel. The students awarded the best recruitment website award to BDO, with Jaguar receiving the nod for its great use of social media in its school leaver recruitment campaign.

A further four awards - including Youngman's award - were judged by a group of 12 industry experts, who included Marcus Potter, Chief Executive, Lantra; Janet Hull, Executive Director at Creative Pioneers and Director of Marketing and Reputation Management at IPA; Jonathan Ledger, Chief Executive, Proskills UK; and Niel McLean, Former Head of Education, e-skills UK.

Deciding on the four winners was a tough task for the judging panel, according to judge Simon Tarr, managing director of People 1st. "The short list was exceptionally strong," he says. "Individual entrants had continually gone the extra mile and employers acknowledged the importance of a transparent and dynamic recruitment process."

The makeup of the panel itself indicates how seriously many companies are now taking their commitment to providing vocational qualifications and alternatives to university, with representatives from many industry bodies and recruiters getting involved.

Other panel members were Nigel Hollet, Summit Skills; Sharon Stephens, Head of Member & Business Development, The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB); Ian Taylor, CEO, SkillsActive; Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive, Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR); John Rogers, Chief Executive, Skills for Health; Joanne Iceton, Head of Communications & Public Affairs, Semta; and Amy Crooks, Head of Marketing & Insight, National Skills Academy for Food & Drink.

As well as deciding on the School Leaver of the Year Award, the panel recognised the achievements of companies taking fresh approaches to promoting alternative career pathways. Tangerine PR won the Best Recruitment Campaign award, with those for most Innovative Recruitment Campaign and Best Use of School & College Engagement in a Recruitment Campaign going to EY.

Lucy Dolan, Recruitment Manager at headline sponsors BDO, explains that the awards fulfil an important function and that her organisation is proud to be involved. "Celebrations such as these are vital in helping to raise awareness of apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and sponsored degrees across the UK," she says. "There is no time like the present to choose an alternative route to university."

And this year's winners are...

Paul Harris, Co-founder of

Top Employers for School & College Leavers 2015-16

1. National Grid

2. Visa Europe

3. Tangerine PR

4. Nomura

5. Mayer Brown

6. Deloitte

7. Hays Travel

8. EY

9. Barratt Developments

10. BDO

11. Virgin Media

12. Escalla

13. RSA UK

14. Smith & Williamson

15. Jaguar Land Rover

16. Baker Tilly

17. Ginger Nut Media

18. Fieldfisher

19. Fidelity Worldwide Investment

20. J.P. Morgan

21. E.ON UK

22. Be Wiser Insurance

23. Arup

24. Cestria Community Housing Association

25. Gordons LLP

26. PwC

27. Clement Keys

28. DHL

29. Hill Dickinson

30. KFC

31. BT

32. Henderson Global Investors

33. Pret A Manger

34. Hazlewoods

35. Nestlé

36. ASDA

37. Mazars

38. Fujitsu

39. ITV

40. Connells Group

41. Grant Thornton

42. Morgan Sindall

43. Capgemini

44. Laing O'Rourke

45. Harrods

46. Lloyds Banking Group

47. BBC

48. Boots UK

49. EDF Energy

50. BAM Nuttall

51. NG Bailey

52. Kennedys

53. Arqiva

54. Foot Anstey

55. Haymarket

56. Marshall

57. Ship Safe Training Group

58. Aecom

59. Gist

60. Tata Steel

61. Santander

62. RBS

63. Volvo

64. Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

65. Alstom

66. Balfour Beatty

67. CGI

68. IBM

69. Hilton Hotels

70. Superdrug

71. Somerset Skills & Learning

72. Civil Service

Top Intermediate Apprenticeships

1. Nomura

2. Mayer Brown

3. Hays Travel

4. Barratt Developments

5. Fujitsu

6. NG Bailey

7. Cestria Community Housing Association

8. DHL

9. Morgan Sindall

10. BT

11. ASDA

12. Connells Group

13. KFC

14. EDF Energy

15. Lloyds Banking Group

16. Boots UK

17. Foot Anstey

18. Gist

19. Volvo

20. Santander

21. Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

22. Balfour Beatty

23. Hilton Hotels

24. Somerset Skills & Learning

Top Advanced Apprenticeships

1. Tangerine PR

2. Jaguar Land Rover

3. Be Wiser Insurance

4. KFC

5. Virgin Media

6. Escalla


8. Ginger Nut Media

9. Fidelity Worldwide Investment

10. J.P. Morgan

11. Boots UK

12. E.ON UK

13. Nestlé

14. Arup

15. BT

16. Gordons LLP

17. Clement Keys

18. Hill Dickinson

19. Hazlewoods

20. ITV

21. BBC

22. Laing O'Rourke

23. Capgemini

24. BAM Nuttall

25. Aecom

26. Kennedys

27. Haymarket

28. Marshall

29. Tata Steel

30. EDF Energy

31. ASDA

32. RBS

33. Fujitsu

34. Alstom

35. Lloyds Banking Group

36. Volvo

37. NG Bailey

Top Higher Apprenticeships

1. Visa Europe

2. Smith & Williamson

3. Jaguar Land Rover

4. Boots UK

5. PwC

6. Fujitsu

7. BT

8. Capgemini

9. Lloyds Banking Group

10. Arqiva

11. IBM

12. BBC

13. Balfour Beatty

14. Nestlé

15. Civil Service

Top School Leaver Programmes

1. National Grid

2. Deloitte

3. EY

4. BDO

5. Baker Tilly

6. Fieldfisher

7. KFC

8. Henderson Global Investors

9. Pret A Manger

10. Be Wiser Insurance

11. Mazars

12. Grant Thornton

13. Harrods

14. Laing O'Rourke

15. Ship Safe Training Group

16. Superdrug

17. IBM

Top Sponsored Degrees

1. Nestlé

2. Barratt Developments

3. PwC

4. KFC

5. BBC

6. Morgan Sindall

7. CGI

8. Aecom

Satisfaction Survey Awards

Top Employer for School & College Leavers

Winner: National Grid

Best Intermediate Apprenticeship

Winner: Nomura

Best Advanced Apprenticeship

Winner: Tangerine PR

Best Higher Apprenticeship

Winner: Visa Europe

Best School Leaver Programme

Winner: National Grid

Best Sponsored Degree

Winner: Nestlé

Best Newcomer

Winner: Tangerine PR

Best Training

Winner: Barratt Developments - Intermediate Apprenticeship

Best Level of Support

Winner: Ginger Nut Media - Advanced Apprenticeship

Best for Job Satisfaction

Winner: Mayer Brown - Intermediate Apprenticeship

Best Opportunities for Skills Development

Winner: Deloitte - School Leaver Programme

Best Company Culture

Winner: Hays Travel

Best Opportunities for Career Progression

Winner: EY - School Leaver Programme

Awards Decided by Expert Panel

School or College Leaver of the Year

Winner: Honeybea Youngman, Pret A Manger

Best School & College Leaver Recruitment Campaign

Winner: Tangerine PR

Most Innovative School & College Leaver Recruitment Campaign

Winner: EY

Best Use of School & College Engagement in a Recruitment Campaign

Winner: EY

Awards Decided by Student Panel

Best School & College Leaver Recruitment Website

Winner: BDO

Best Use of Social Media in a School & College Leaver Recruitment Campaign

Winner: Jaguar Land Rover