A key worker who has juggled life as father of two young children with completing an apprenticeship – all during a global pandemic – has been named our Birmingham Apprentice of the Year.

Mohammed Islam from West Midlands Ambulance Service won the Health, Education and Care category at the Birmingham Apprenticeship Awards 2020 before being picked from the five individual winners to take home the top honour.

The annual awards, which were held online due to the coronavirus restrictions and hosted by Heart FM’s Ed James, are run by BirminghamLive in partnership with the Ladder for Greater Birmingham campaign.

They celebrated achievement across 11 categories for individuals, employers and training providers.

Mohammed, 34, started with the West Midlands patient transport service in late 2018 and the following year began studying for a diploma in healthcare support.

Undeterred by the coronavirus lockdown, he kept up his studies online while continuing to work long shifts throughout the pandemic and completed his diploma in September alongside further qualifications in maths and English.

For the past nine months, he has been working on the high dependency unit based in north Birmingham which transports patients who may need oxygen or more specific care during transfer journeys.

His citation praised him for always striving to improve and working tirelessly, adding: “He has proven to be an inspiration and role model for other apprentices, demonstrating that you can achieve the things you want if you stay focused and prioritise your time.”

It is the second year in a row that our Apprentice of the Year has come from West Midlands Ambulance Service after Kevin Naylor, then 51, took home the award in 2019 for his working high-dependency patients.

Big four financial services firm PwC was also a big winner on the night, claiming three awards including the Education Engagement category for the second year running.

Kevin Davis, chairman of the Ladder for Greater Birmingham campaign who also led our judging panel, said: “May I extend heartfelt congratulations to all our finalists and winners and, of course, our overall Apprentice of the Year Mohammed for his work with West Midlands Ambulance Service.

“The judges were bowled over by the mature way he has juggled his job and apprenticeship training with being the father of two young children to complete his healthcare diploma and other qualifications.

“It’s been a very tough year for employers, training providers and apprentices, some of whom had to endure stalls in their education and training as the regulations seemed to change on a weekly basis.

“But the quality of their work shone through the applications and made judging once again such a tough task.

“Hopefully, 2021 will bring greater economic prosperity for all and I am sure our apprentices will go from strength to strength.”

The full list of 2020 winners and sponsors are below:

Outstanding Apprentice of the Year – Construction and Property, sponsored by Midlands High Growth

Qasim Khattak, Rider Levett Bucknall

Outstanding Apprentice of the Year – Engineering and Manufacturing, sponsored by Birmingham Metropolitan College

Vicky Curtis, voestalpine

Outstanding Apprentice of the Year – Health, Education and Care, sponsored by Wales England Care

Mohammed Islam, West Midlands Ambulance Service

Outstanding Apprentice of the Year – Professional Services, sponsored by Performance Through People

Isobel Sherrington, EY

Outstanding Apprentice of the Year – Tech, Digital and Creative Industries, sponsored by voestalpine

Lauren Alie, PwC

Apprentice of the Year – chosen from the five category winners above, sponsored by Birmingham and Solihull Training Provider Network

Mohammed Islam, West Midlands Ambulance Service

Small Employer of the Year (1-50 staff), sponsored by Make UK

Tinkerbell’s Card Shop

Medium Employer of the Year (51-249 staff), sponsored by BCTG

Crimson

Large Employer of the Year (250+ staff), sponsored by The Development Manager

PwC

Training Provider of the Year, sponsored by The Ladder Foundation

Swift ACI

Education Engagement Award, sponsored by Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership

PwC