Microsoft has announced the first ever female winner of its annual Apprentice of the Year competition at a ceremony at its Reading headquarters.
19-year old Tanya Stittle, an apprentice at Cambridge-based mobile payments specialist Bango (pictured, with Microsoft’s UK MD Michel Van der Bel), was awarded the prize in recognition of her exceptional contribution to the team since joining 20 months ago.
The news comes after Microsoft awarded Daniel Morrison its Modern Apprentice of the Year in Scotland award last month.
The ceremony also included a separate Apprentice Employer Award, which was awarded to IT solutions company Perspicuity.
"In a very strong field of employers nominated by their own apprentices, Perspicuity was commended for the way it supports new apprentices, paying a viable living wage and implementing a coach and mentor process to help new recruits to learn and develop more effectively," Microsoft said in a statement.
Microsoft says its Apprenticeship Programme is part of the company’s commitment to providing the relevant training and skills to young people in the UK to help them succeed in the workplace. This year, Microsoft is celebrating the five year anniversary of its Partner Apprenticeship programme, designed for and by Microsoft partners and customers, and run in conjunction with eight training providers nationwide.
Since 2010, the scheme has seen over 7,000 young people placed in around 5,000 different companies, combining a real job with Microsoft-certified qualifications upon completion.
Tanya Stittle, Apprentice of the Year 2015, said: "This is such a surprise – I can’t believe it. I’m so proud to be the first female Apprentice of the Year. We need to get the word out to more girls, because generally a lot of women feel that IT is more of a male thing, but if they knew it could be the start of a successful career then they’d definitely want to.
"What I really love is the way we get to learn every day; from our training providers, from our work colleagues, it just builds your skill set more and more. And, of course, it’s always really interesting."
Tanya was commended by the judges for her ability to quickly build the skills required to solve complex technical problems, develop a logical approach to her work and her readiness to take on new challenges.
She has supported several case studies, films and media panels promoting career opportunities for young females in IT. As a mentor to fellow team members, Tanya has developed a reputation for being a strong role model for other apprentices.
Chris Goulding, Team Leader, Bango Platform Operations Centre, added: "Since joining Bango, Tanya has far exceeded all of her set objectives, taking the technical lead on a number of projects, and she also finds time to mentor other apprentice engineers.
"Tanya is certainly a role model to inspire other girls to consider an IT apprenticeship as a viable career, and we could not be prouder that her accomplishments have been recognised as Microsoft’s Apprentice of the Year, 2015."
Hugh Milward, Director for Corporate Affairs at Microsoft UK, said: "Whilst IT is perhaps traditionally perceived to be a male-dominated sector, it’s great to see female role models like Tanya embarking upon a career in technology and encouraging others to do the same. We need young people with all different skillsets – both male and female – to play a part in driving the UK’s valuable IT industry forwards.”
Rupert Squires, Sales Director at Perspicuity, commented: "It’s pretty amazing to be Microsoft’s Employer of the Year. Apprentices make a real contribution to our business. We’re looking to bring on two more apprentices this year, bringing our total intake up to about nine – some of those have graduated, some have taken on more senior consulting roles.
"But with this award, it makes a really strong programme even stronger, which I hope will attract some cracking future candidates.”
The complete list of 2015’s shortlisted Apprentices and Employers is as follows: