It’s hard to believe it was over a year ago that I was sat at the BAE Systems UK Apprentice Awards in Manchester. I wasn’t even expecting to win my category, let alone walk away as Apprentice of the Year. I’ve recently handed the winner’s sword over to this year’s worthy winner, Ben Green, and hope 2018 brings him the same opportunities that 2017 brought me.
My 12 months as Apprentice of the Year brought a range of new opportunities – both within and outside the company – as I worked to promote the important role of apprenticeships at BAE Systems and highlight the wider benefits they bring to the UK, all alongside my day job!  
Blossom Hill, Apprentice of the Year My first trip on official duties was to London to attend the Diversity Champion Network Launch, hosted by the Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills. I joined Mark Donnelly, Apprenticeships and Skills Manager, to represent BAE Systems at the event alongside a number of other industry peers. 
In March, I attended the annual Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, which celebrates all things science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) with young people from across the UK. It’s always great fun to work with children and show them how fun and interesting STEM subjects can be. Alongside Chris Allam, who at the time was the Engineering Director for the Air sector, I spoke at the Fair’s supporter’s meal in front of around 400 people. The year before I’d sat in the audience and watched an industry peer give a great speech, so I was very nervous about meeting people’s expectations!
Another highlight of my year was being invited to represent BAE Systems at a Government Select Committee hearing on how to close the STEM skills gap. It was an amazing opportunity to represent BAE Systems and share my experiences and insight on such an important national Government issue.
Another standout moment was when HRH The Prince of Wales visited the Academy for Skills and Knowledge, our apprentice training facility at our Samlesbury site in Lancashire. As Apprentice of the Year, I was asked to meet His Royal Highness and hand him a small gift on behalf of the company. It was a surreal experience but a privilege to be asked; it’s something I will never forget! Especially how bad my curtsy was!
Blossom Hill presenting at the UK Apprentice Awards
One of my final responsibilities as Apprentice of the Year was to join the judging panel for this year’s Apprentice Awards. It was great to see so many talented apprentices nominated for awards, which made deciding the overall winner very hard. I also had the honour of hosting the awards ceremony in February, which was another amazing – but nerve racking – experience and a great way to end my year as Apprentice of the Year.
I finished my apprenticeship back in 2016 (although it feels like yesterday) and now work as a Welfare Officer at the Aircraft Maintenance Academy at Humberside Airport, where I am the point of contact for any Welfare or wellbeing concerns highlighted by learners or staff both at the academy or placement year locations. In this role every day is different, enables me to visit RAF bases on a regular basis and work with apprentices from all walks of life.
Even though it’s been nearly two years since I was an apprentice, I still look back fondly at the experiences I had and the people I met whilst completing it. An apprenticeship at BAE Systems offers so many opportunities and experiences, but what really made it for me was all the people I met along the way and the support and guidance they’ve been willing to give.
I always share the same advice when speaking about apprenticeships at BAE Systems: everyone is here to help and offer support along your journey, so make the most of it. There are so many previous apprentices still in the business, at all levels, so there’s always someone willing to offer valuable advice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge the norm, and never pass up an opportunity as you will only regret the chances that you didn’t take.

Blossom Hill

Welfare Officer