If any winner epitomises the STAR Awards' claim to celebrate the unsung hero, it must be Alan Davies, 55, who works for ProCo, a private training provider in Wigan, where he teaches motor vehicle maintenance to a wide range of learners.
His trainees include those in their 30s and 40s on employer training pilots, a government initiative to encourage employers to develop workforce skills. He also teaches key skills to 16 and 17-year-old vehicle maintenance apprentices, as well as Years 10 and 11 students on schools'
Alan was declared Work-Based Learning Trainer of the Year at the 2004 awards. He was particularly commended for the excellent achievement rates of his learners, and particularly for his work to encourage women mechanics into the trade. Colleagues speak of his great dedication to his students.
Yvonne Barber, the company's vocational training manager, who nominated Alan for his STAR Award, says the company has had to fend off the local further education college's attempts to poach him. "The main reason I nominated him is for the work he produces and his commitment to his learners," she says.
"It's not just the caseload he manages and that he achieves all the goals we set him, but he also does so much beyond the call of duty. He goes on night shift to assess his learners and he will be around on Saturday mornings, and this is all in his own time. It sounds like he's a saint, doesn't it? But he is - he's excellent.
Alan Davies came into education and training late in his career. After serving an apprenticeship, he worked in various garages before spending 18 years as a mechanic with the US Army at its base in Burnwood, Cheshire.
But when he was made redundant over a decade ago he decided to move into further education. After taking a City Guilds further education teaching certificate, and a Cert Ed, he has also constantly updated his teaching skills, taking TDLB (Training and Development Lead Body) qualification at levels 3 and 4 (A-level and HE equivalent) and a basic skills teaching qualification.
Gently-spoken and self-effacing, Alan plays down his win. "It was such a shock, to be quite honest," he says. "I didn't expect anything like this. I know I went up for the award, but it's really testimony to what our company tries to do for young people."
He believes the award could benefit the work-based learning sector and help raise its profile among employers in his area. He says firms in some areas of vehicle maintenance, particularly in heavy vehicles, are struggling to find good, well-trained mechanics. And some employers are still in the dark when it comes to the training opportunities available.
"I know it sounds daft because motor vehicle maintenance has been around for years, but a lot of them don't understand it. Being nationally recognised hopefully will help raise the profile of it," says Alan.
STAR AWARD WINNER
Name: Alan Davies. Job: Training consultant with ProCo NW Ltd, Wigan. Winning Category: Work-based Learning Trainer of the Year, sponsored by the Association of Learning Providers