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Apprentice Melissa named region’s top vocational student

Posted: 16 May 2014

West Nottinghamshire College apprentice Melissa Jackson has been named as one of the country’s top vocational learners.

Melissa at work in the college's fine-dining restaurant, Refined.
Melissa at work in the college's fine-dining restaurant, Refined.

The 19-year-old was today (Friday 16 May) announced as the East Midlands’ regional winner of the VQ Learner of the Year Awards 2014 in recognition of her outstanding achievement whilst undertaking professional cookery qualifications.

Melissa, from Mansfield, has worked hard to establish herself as a talented chef-in-training – presenting an array of impressive dishes during her apprenticeship in the college’s fine-dining restaurant, Refined.

Judges were impressed by her determination to learn and grow in her chosen field; supplementing her education with an Open University course in Human Nutrition and securing a bursary to study with the prestigious School of Artisan Food, on the Welbeck Estate in north Nottinghamshire, which specialises in historic and artisan food-production techniques.

Melissa is now in with a chance of winning the prestigious VQ Learner of the Year Award for England, which celebrates the best vocational learners across the country.

She will receive her regional accolade from Skills Minister Matthew Hancock MP at a glittering awards ceremony in Westminster on 3 June, attended by all the regional winners. The overall winner for England will also be announced on the night.

Melissa said: "I'm thrilled to have been selected as this year's VQ Learner of the Year for the East Midlands. Vocational qualifications have given me the skills and drive to pursue my career and I'm delighted that this nomination has recognised my hard work. There are so many different training opportunities to choose from and I would highly recommend vocational learning to others.

“The great thing about vocational courses is getting to do theory and practical, so you learn both sides of the job.”

Melissa insists she has “absolutely loved” her time at college, saying: “My tutors have been fantastic.”

She added: “My apprenticeship at college is going great and I love working in Refined, which has given me an idea of what the industry is like. I enjoy putting what I learn in lessons into practice in the kitchens and seeing how my dishes turn out.

“I’m now looking forward to starting the next chapter of my learning journey at the School of Artisan Food in September. My ultimate goal is to work in artisan bakery and specialise as a pâtissier.”

Melissa began her studies at college as a 14-year-old, attending one day per week as part of its Schools Academy programme. The teenager has since gone on to gain a total of five vocational qualifications and is about to complete her sixth – the NVQ Level 3 Advanced Professional Cookery – which forms part of her apprenticeship.

Melissa was nominated by curriculum manager for travel and hospitality, Jennie Jordan, who describes her as “something of an inspiration.”

It is the third time in four years that the East Midlands winner has hailed from West Nottinghamshire College, after engineering apprentice Leanne Cooke and professional cookery student Joseph Johnson, both from Mansfield, claimed the honour in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

The award forms part of VQ Day – an annual celebration of people who gain vocational qualifications every year in the UK.  Held on 4 June 2014, VQ Day is led by independent education charity, the Edge Foundation, and aims to celebrate the benefits of technical, practical and vocational learning, not only to the individual but also to the UK economy.

Jan Hodges OBE, chief executive of the Edge Foundation, said: “Melissa is a great example of how technical, practical and vocational qualifications can be the catalyst for a successful and fulfilling career. We wish her the best of luck ahead of VQ Day and in the future.”

For more information about VQ Day and the VQ Learner of the Year Awards visit

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