The dedication and commitment of an apprentice at a South East Northumberland surface mine has led to him being named as Northumberland College's Student Of The Year.
Twenty year-old Drew Barber works at regional employer Banks Mining's Shotton surface mine near Cramlington, and also studies for some of each week at the College's Ashington campus as part of his apprenticeship.
Drew, who is from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, joined Banks Mining in 2012 on a three-year apprenticeship and has since trained as a mechanic on the company's wide-ranging plant fleet, which encompasses everything from Land Rovers to Caterpillar 789 off-highway dump trucks with a capacity of 180 tonnes.
He is due to formally complete his apprenticeship in September, and will move onto the next phase of Banks Mining's plant department training matrix, which will enable him to further improve his skills base and take on more responsibility.
Drew Barber says: "Having Banks Mining's apprenticeship programme available so close to my home was a great opportunity for me to start my career. It's been a really enjoyable last three years, and working on site on such a wide range of equipment has given me a great chance to put what I learn in college into practice.
"Winning this award is great, but there's still a lot more for me to learn and I'm keen to get on with the next stage of developing my career with Banks."
Banks Mining and Northumberland College spent three years developing the Durham-headquartered firm's bespoke apprenticeship scheme, which was created as part of its continuing commitment to providing direct benefits to the area through its local operations.
It includes a comprehensive three-year training programme at the College as well as on-site work, and offers qualifications up to NVQ Level Three that are specifically relevant to the skills Banks requires, as well as supporting the apprentices in developing a wider range of skills and knowledge that they will be able to use throughout their working lives.
Banks Mining also makes a range of equipment on site available for the College, including engines, hydraulic systems and excavator buckets, which reflects the equipment that the apprentices would work with on a daily basis.
Around 140 people work at the Shotton site, alongside a further 60 at the nearby Brenkley Lane surface mine, and the two sites jointly contribute over £35m every year to the regional economy through wages, investment and the local supply chain.
A new intake of apprentices is set to join the company within the next few weeks.
John Welsh, plant assets manager at Banks Mining, says: “Drew's character stood out when we were recruiting what was to be the first group of apprentices to attend Northumberland College, and both his attitude and application have been spot on from the start of his time with us.
"He's well liked and respected by his workmates, is committed to and enthusiastic about his work, and we believe he fully deserves the recognition he's received from the College.
“The training that our apprentices receive gives them the foundations on which to build successful careers, and there'll be every opportunity for the new recruits that we'll be taking on in the near future to follow the excellent example that Drew has set."