An aspiring railway engineer from Northampton College is firmly on track for future success having been named the regional winner of the National Apprenticeship Awards.

Darren Stawarz, a mature student who is currently completing an NVQ at Booth Lane while working as a project engineer at Knorr-Bremse RailServices in Wolverton, was named the East Midlands winner in the Higher or Degree Apprentice category.

Having fought off the challenge of more than 800 entrants, Darren will now progress to the national finals of the awards – which showcase the diverse range of sectors engaged with apprenticeships and celebrate outstanding apprentices and employers.

Darren, aged 34 from Abington, said, “I’ve always been highly driven and I want to do the best I possibly can. I’ve always been of the view that there’s no point doing anything if you don’t do it to the very best of your ability.

“I managed to secure an A* for every assignment at College and I’m delighted to have won this award, it cements the work I’m doing day in, day out and is reward for the effort I have put in.

“It’s actually the second apprenticeship I’ve done at Northampton College and I’m hugely grateful for the support and teaching I’ve received.

“I’m looking forward to continuing in education and I will be moving onto a BSc (Hons) degree at the University of Northampton next year when I complete my apprenticeship. I’m keen to do a Masters after that as well.”

Darren is now involved in recruiting and mentoring new apprentices at Knorr Bremse and has recently taken another Northampton College student, Liam Ward, under his wing.

Meanwhile, another college student and Knorr Bremse apprentice, Liz Lothian, was also recognised at the awards as being ‘highly commended’.

Managing director of Knorr-Bremse RailServices, Nick Fitzwater, said, “We are proud of Darren and Liz and all our apprentices and our long-established apprenticeship training programme. Recognising outstanding achievement through the National Apprenticeship Awards further strengthens the profile of apprenticeships and how important they are to business and our economy.”

Neil Tobin, course leader in engineering at Northampton College, said, “I’m delighted to see the hard work of our students paying off. Both Darren and Liz are exceptional students with a tremendous work ethic and that is clearly standing them in good stead in the workplace.

Read more from Daniel Owens